The Dow Jones Industrial Average squeaked into the green late Thursday as investors were buoyed by indications that the U.S. government was planning a small reopening of an economy stalled by the coronavirus pandemic.
At the same time, another more than 5 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the latest week.
Jobless claims were 5.245 million in the week ended April 11, a shocking number though less than the 5.8 million claims expected by analysts polled by FactSet.
The four-week total of claims stands now at nearly 22 million as the U.S. economy continues to reel from the coronavirus outbreak and an unprecedented economic shutdown.
The Dow finished up 33 points, or 0.14%, to 23,537, the S&P 500 was 0.58% higher and the Nasdaq gained 1.66%.
"The waves of millions of workers filing for unemployment insurance continued last week. While this wave may be slightly smaller than the previous two weeks, the labor market is still being battered by a historic storm," said Nick Bunker, Indeed Hiring Lab's director of economic research.
"Whether these workers will be recalled to their former jobs or get hired at new ones is a matter of when the public feels safe returning to a semblance of normalcy. Only then can businesses start to ramp up hiring and the number of jobless workers can start to fall," Bunker added.
President Donald Trump said he planned to unveil guidelines for states to begin easing social-distancing measures, citing a plateauing of coronavirus cases in certain parts of the U.S.
“The battle continues, but the data suggests that nationwide we have passed the peak on new cases,” Trump said Wednesday at a news conference.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended a lockdown of the state until May 15, saying that progress has been made in limiting the spread of the virus.
Other economic data released Thursday also show the effect the coronavirus pandemic was having on the U.S. economy.
Housing starts slumped 22.3% in March, vs. an expected decline of 15.6%, while the Philadelphia Fed manufacturing index in April dropped to -56.6 , the lowest reading since July 1980, from -12.5 in March.
Morgan Stanley (MS) - Get Report posted weaker-than-expected first-quarter earnings and said credit loss provisions, which have dominated bank earnings this season as lenders braced for a wave of defaults amid a protracted coronavirus shutdown, increased to $388 million.
Morgan Stanley did see strong results in sales and in its trading operations.
Abbott Laboratories (ABT) - Get Report posted stronger-than-expected first-quarter earnings but scrapped its fiscal-year profit guidance amid uncertainty over the "duration and impact" of the coronavirus pandemic.
Looking into the fiscal year, Abbott said it would suspend its prior profit forecasts, which called for adjusted earnings of between $3.55 and $3.65 a share.