Wall Street pushes higher to extend week’s big gains

Stocks are pushing higher in morning trading on Wall Street Thursday, extending this week’s rally built on hopes for a coming economic revival.

The S&P 500 was up 0.6% as of 11 a.m. Eastern time, on track for its fourth straight gain. That would be its longest winning streak since early February, before the market began to sell off on worries about the severe recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 100 points, or 0.4%, to 25,649, while the Nasdaq composite was up 0.5%. All three indexes wavered between small gains and losses in the early going.

Gains for health care stocks were one of the biggest factors nudging the market to its highest level since early March, and the S&P 500 has trimmed its loss to roughly 10% from its record high set in February. Johnson & Johnson was up 1.8%, Merck rose 2.7% and Pfizer added 2.2%.

They helped offset losses for banks and energy stocks. Twitter also fell modestly as President Donald Trump prepared to sign an executive order aimed at curbing liability protections for social media companies. Trump has been railing against Twitter after it applied fact checks to two of his tweets.

Thursday’s gains have the S&P 500 on pace for its third weekly rise of at least 3% in the last four weeks. Following their breathtaking drop of nearly 34% in February and much of March, stocks began climbing after the Federal Reserve and Capitol Hill pledged unprecedented amounts of aid for the economy.

More recently, the market has pushed higher as investors move into stocks that would benefit most from a reopening economy. Governments around the country and world are slowly lifting restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which has investors hoping the worst of the recession has already passed or will soon.

Longer-term Treasury yields rose Thursday after a government report showed that the number of workers filing for unemployment benefits dipped for the eighth straight week, though the numbers remain incredibly high.

Perhaps more importantly, the number of continuing claims for unemployment fell to 21 million from 25 million. If that continues, economists said it could be a sign that more people are going back to work as states begin their reopenings.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury ticked up to 0.69% from 0.67% late Wednesday. It tends to move with optimism about the economy’s strength and inflation. The 30-year yield also rose, while the two-year yield slipped.

In Europe, the German DAX returned 1.1%, and the French CAC 40 rose 1.8%. The FTSE 100 in London added 1.2%.

Asian markets were mixed as tensions continue to heighten between the United States and China. The latest flashpoint between them stems from Beijing exerting more control over Hong Kong, and investors are worried about the risk that trade tensions between the world’s largest economies could reignite.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 0.7%, while stocks in Shanghai added 0.3%. The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo rose 2.3%, and the South Korean Kospi slipped 0,1%.

A barrel of U.S. crude oil for delivery in July slipped 0.3% to $32.72. Brent crude, the international standard, was down 0.2% at $35.38 per barrel.

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