Stocks rise as Trump prepares reopening of America details

U.S. equity markets found footing on Thursday, marching higher in the final hour of trading, ahead of President Trump's “Opening Up America Again” announcement set for 6 pm ET.

The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average rose nearly 33 points, or 0.12 percent, while the broader S&P 500 gained 0.57 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 1.66 percent led by big-cap tech names including Amazon, Netflix and Microsoft.

Optimism that pockets of the nation may be able to reopen soon helped outweigh a sizeable jump in first-time unemployment claims.

The Labor Department reported initial jobless claims totaling 5.25 million for the week through April 11, worse than the 5.1 million that economists surveyed by Refinitiv were anticipating. The data raises the number of first-time filings due to disruptions from COVID-19, including stores closing and factories idling, to about 22 million.

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Looking at stocks, Morgan Stanley reported its first-quarter profit fell 32 percent from a year ago to $1.7 billion. The company is largely avoiding the government’s small business lending program since it lacks a credit arm, unlike rivals JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup.

Abbott Laboratories reported a 16 percent drop in first-quarter profit and suspended its 2020 forecast.

Meanwhile, United Airlines cut its flight schedule in May by 90 percent and warned job cuts were likely after Sept. 30, when limitations from the CARES Act, the government’s rescue package, expire.

Bed Bath & Beyond beat on both the top and bottom lines as its fiscal fourth-quarter loss narrowed to $65 million, or 53 cents a share, from $254 million a year ago. The retailer did not provide fiscal 2020 guidance due to uncertainty caused by COVID-19.

Big-box retailer Costco raised its quarterly dividend by 7.9 percent to 70 cents a share

J.C. Penney missed a $12 million interest payment, electing to enter into a 30-day grace period amid reports the retailer is mulling a bankruptcy filing.

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West Texas Intermediate crude oil was little changed at $19.87 a barrel and gold slipped slightly to $1,720 an ounce.

U.S. Treasurys rallied pushing the yield on the 10-year note down to 0.609 percent. Data out Thursday morning showed housing starts plunged 22.3 percent in March to 1.216 million, missing the 1.3 million that economists were expecting.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX traded higher by 1.17 percent, France’s CAC added 0.71 percent and Britain’s FTSE gained 0.59 percent.

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Asian markets finished mixed, with China’s Shanghai Composite adding 0.31 percent while Japan’s Nikkei and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slid 1.33 percent and 0.58 percent, respectively.

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