Dow Finishes Up 1,350 Points, 6.4%, as Jobless Claims Soar but Wall Street Looks to Stimulus

Stocks ended sharply higher Thursday after nearly 3.3 million out-of-work Americans filed for unemployment but investors embraced the Senate's passage of a $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill.
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Stocks ended sharply higher Thursday even after jobless claims jumped into the millions as the coronavirus pandemic forced companies and businesses to shut down and lay off workers.

Nearly 3.3 million out-of-work Americans filed for unemployment, the most ever recorded in the U.S., as the onslaught of the deadly coronavirus brings the U.S. economy to an unprecedented standstill.

The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that jobless claims for the week ended March 21 were 3.283 million, up from 281,000 a week earlier.

“The numbers are shocking; we all agree on that," said Barrend Raaff, CEO of Harver, a candidate selection platform. "The question at hand is: Is this it, or are we looking at the tip of the iceberg? The applicant volumes on our platform and the behavioral intent of employees don't make us optimistic."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 1,351 points, or 6.38%, to 22,552, the S&P 500 gained 6.24% and the Nasdaq closed up 5.6%.

Boeing BA, Chevron CVX and Walgreens Boots Alliance WBA led the Dow's advance.

The S&P 500 saw its first three-day rally since February.

Investors on Thursday also embraced the passage in the Senate late Wednesday of a $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill. The massive stimulus package passed on a 96-0 vote in the Senate. The House was scheduled to vote Friday on the legislation.

President Donald Trump said he immediately would sign the bill, which includes direct payments to most Americans and aid for industries hardest hit by the pandemic.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that checks would be delivered in about three weeks.

And The Wall Street Journal reported that Mnuchin indicated that the $2 trillion fiscal stimulus package includes a government ownership stake in airlines as part of their bailout.

Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Thursday there are no limits to the amount of money the central bank can use to support the economy during coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking with NBC's "Today" program, Powell also said the U.S. economy likely already is in recession. But he noted that activity could rebound in the second half of the year if the spread of the coronavirus is quickly brought under control.

"When it comes to lending, we’re not going to run out of ammunition," Powell said. "That doesn’t happen."

The number of confirmed global cases of the coronavirus has risen to 521,086, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, and deaths increased to 23,568.

The U.S. has 79,785 cases of the virus and more than 1,000 people have died.

The U.S. death toll follows that of France, which has 1,696 deaths. Italy has the most deaths of any country, 8,215, from the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins.

The World Health Organization earlier this week said the United States has the "potential" to become the epicenter of the crisis.