Wall Street ends higher as Trump boosts hopes of stimulus

FILE PHOTO: A worker cleans the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)

By Caroline Valetkevitch

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks ended higher on Thursday as comments by U.S. President Donald Trump fueled hopes of fresh fiscal support, while data underscored the view that the labor market recovery was struggling to gain momentum.

Two days after calling off negotiations on a comprehensive bill, Trump in an interview with Fox News said talks with Congress have restarted over further COVID-19 relief and that there was a good chance a deal could be reached. But he gave no other details about a possible agreement.

While late afternoon trading was choppy, indexes added to gains after a White House spokeswoman said Trump wanted a “skinny” coronavirus relief bill.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said legislation to help airlines was a matter of national security and could only move through Congress with guarantees of work continuing on the comprehensive deal.

The Dow Jones airlines index <.DJUSAR> jumped 1.6%, extending recent gains.

“We’re clearly being pushed around by the prospect of getting further fiscal stimulus. That’s entirely the driver,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.

“The market is just reacting to every utterance of where we stand on fiscal policy.”

The S&P 500 energy index <.SPNY> led sector percentage gains, rising 3.8% on the day, following a jump in oil prices. The Russell 2000 small-cap index <.RUT> was up 1.1%

The Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> rose 122.05 points, or 0.43%, to 28,425.51, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 27.38 points, or 0.80%, to 3,446.83 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 56.38 points, or 0.5%, to 11,420.98.

Data on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits drifted lower last week but signaled the labor market was making little headway in getting millions of people back on the job after being out of work due to COVID-19 disruptions.

Strategists say investors are also beginning to digest the prospect of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden winning the Nov. 3 election.

Biden appeared to lead Trump among likely voters in Florida and the two were locked in a tight race in Arizona, according to Reuters/Ipsos opinion polls released on Wednesday.

“What the market is actually starting to warm up to is a Democratic sweep in the election cycle. If it’s a decisive win, you take away the drama of a contested election,” Hogan said.

International Business Machines Corp <IBM.N> shares rose 6% after saying it was splitting itself into two public companies, capping its years-long effort to diversify away from its legacy businesses to focus on high-margin cloud computing.

Eaton Vance Corp <EV.N> shares surged 48.1% after Morgan Stanley <MS.N> agreed to buy the asset manager for about $7 billion in a cash-and-stock deal.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 3.51-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.04-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 58 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 118 new highs and 12 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 8.92 billion shares, compared with the 9.76 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

(Additional reporting by Sagarika Jaisinghani and Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Sinead Carew in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)