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Stocks Close Higher - Retail Sales Offset Rise in Infections

Stocks end higher on strong retail sales but come off their best levels after reports of higher global coronavirus infections.

Stock finished higher Tuesday after U.S. retail sales in May surged the most on record but gains were tempered on reports of an increase in coronavirus infections in the U.S. and globally.

Florida reported 80,109 Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, up 3.6% from a day earlier. The average increase over the past seven days has been 2.5%, according to Bloomberg. Deaths in the state also rose 1.9%. Texas had an increase in hospitalizations.

In Beijing, schools were being shut following a coronavirus outbreak that started in the city's largest wholesale meat and vegetable market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended up 526 points, or 2.04%, to 26,289, the S&P 500 rose 1.9% and the Nasdaq gained 1.75%.

At one point during the session the Dow industrials were nearly 850 points, or 3.3%, higher.

Stocks had risen sharply earlier Tuesday after U.S. retail sales in May jumped and after the Federal Reserve's latest move to support markets.

A potential treatment for Covid-19 that has proved successful in early trials also was giving stocks a boost. 

Reports said a study of dexamethasone - a widely available steroid drug - can help patients suffering from severe symptoms of the illness.

Retail sales rose 17.7% in May, well ahead of the 8% forecast, as millions of Americans returned to work following weeks of coronavirus-triggered lockdowns that shuttered the world's largest economy.

The Fed said Monday it would begin buying corporate bonds on Tuesday. The central bank will purchase the bonds under its Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility, an emergency lending program, using an indexed approach. The move builds on the Fed's purchase of corporate bond ETFs, which started last month.

“In case the generosity of the Fed was in any doubt, it is not. Global equity markets are recovering quickly” after the Fed announcement, said Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at AxiCorp.

Stocks also rose on a Bloomberg report that said the Trump administration was preparing a $1 trillion infrastructure proposal in an effort to boost the U.S. economy.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, in testimony before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, said "significant uncertainty remains about the timing and strength of the (U.S.) recovery."

“Recently, some indicators have pointed to a stabilization, and in some areas a modest rebound, in economic activity,” Powell said.

“That said, the levels of output and employment remain far below their prepandemic levels, and significant uncertainty remains about the timing and strength of the recovery,” he added.

Meanwhile, AT&T  (T) - Get Free Report informed the Communications Workers of America of its plans to cut more than 3,400 technician and clerical jobs across the country over the next few weeks, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing the company's main labor union.