U.S. Stocks Give Back Ground But Remain Mostly Positive

Stocks have given back some ground after an early move to the upside but remain mostly positive in mid-day trading on Thursday. The major averages are adding to the strong gains posted in the previous session.

Currently, the major averages are well off their highs of the session but still firmly positive. The Dow is up 308.32 points or 1.3 percent at 23,784.14, the Nasdaq is up 95.94 points or 1.1 percent at 8,591.32 and the S&P 500 is up 31.49 points or 1.1 percent at 2,830.80.

Continued strength among energy stocks is helping to support the markets, with the sector benefiting from a continued rebound by the price of crude oil.

After surging up $2.21 to $13.78 a barrel in the previous session, crude for June delivery is soaring $4.11 to $17.89 a barrel.

The spike in oil prices comes after the front-month contract turned negative for the first time in history earlier this week.

President Donald Trump helped spark the rebound in oil prices on Wednesday with a tweet threatening to “shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.”

The tweet about Iran came a day after Trump pledged to provide assistance to the oil and gas industry, calling for a plan to make emergency funds available to energy companies.

Reflecting the strength in the energy sector, the Philadelphia Oil Service Index has jumped by 6.6 percent, while the NYSE Arca Oil Index and the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index are up by 4.6 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively.

Similarly, gold stocks continue to see significant strength on the day amid a substantial increase by the price of the precious metal.

With gold for June delivery climbing $14.50 to $1,752.80 an ounce, the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index is up by 2.9 percent after reaching its best intraday level in well over three years.

Steel, transportation and chemical stocks are also seeing notable strength, moving higher along with most of the other major sectors.

The broad based strength on Wall Street comes following the release of the Labor Department’s report on initial jobless claims in the week ended April 18th.

The report showed more than 4 million people filed first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, although that reflects a continued decline from the nearly 7 million people that filed first-time claims in the last week of March.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims dropped to 4.427 million, a decrease of 810,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 5.237 million.

Economists had expected jobless claims to slump to 4.200 million from the 5.245 million originally reported for the previous week.

Jobless claims remain at a substantially elevated level due to the coronavirus-induced economic shutdown but have slid steadily since reaching a record high of 6.867 million in the week ended March 28th.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in another mixed performance during trading on Thursday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index surged up by 1.5 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index dipped by 0.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets all moved to the upside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index advanced by 0.9 percent, the German DAX Index and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index both jumped by 1 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries have pulled back near the unchanged line after moving modestly higher earlier in the session. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by less than a basis point at 0.617 percent.

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