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S&P gains as investors juggle pandemic fears with recovery prospects

(Reuters) – The S&P edged higher on Thursday as investors weighed the prospect of additional stimulus and states reopening for business against bellicose remarks from President Donald Trump about U.S.-China trade negotiations and dire warnings from a whistleblower about the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is seen in the financial district of lower Manhattan during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, U.S., April 26, 2020. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

The Dow joined the S&P in the black, while tech shares held the Nasdaq in negative territory.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the governor’s lockdown orders, fueling hopes that mandated restrictions could be lifted sooner rather than later.

But an ousted health official testified before a U.S. House of Representatives panel that the United States could face “the darkest winter” if its response to the pandemic failed to improve.

Comments by Trump late Wednesday blamed China for the coronavirus outbreak and revived trade war fears, even as mandated lockdowns continue to damage the economy.

That damage was in evidence in a report from the U.S. Labor Department, which showed just under 3 million new jobless claims last week, pushing the seven-week tally well over 36 million.

“Going forward, we’re looking at how quickly jobs are going to come back to the economy,” said Charlie Ripley, senior market strategist for Allianz Investment Management in Minneapolis. “And we’re not going to get a clear picture of that until we see where consumer demand is at.”

A White House spokeswoman said President Trump is open to another possible stimulus bill, which could further support economic recovery.

Economic and fiscal stimulus is keeping buyers in the market, said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York wrote in a research note.

In a research note, Moya wrote “The economic outlook will remain uncertain until a vaccine is in place, but a complete selloff is unlikely when trillions of dollars keep getting put into the economy.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 157.61 points, or 0.68{3c4481f38fc19dde56b7b1f4329b509c88239ba5565146922180ec5012de023f}, to 23,405.58, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 6.31 points, or 0.22{3c4481f38fc19dde56b7b1f4329b509c88239ba5565146922180ec5012de023f}, to 2,826.31 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 18.64 points, or 0.21{3c4481f38fc19dde56b7b1f4329b509c88239ba5565146922180ec5012de023f}, to 8,844.53.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, seven were higher, led by financial .SPSY and energy .SPNY stocks.

First-quarter earnings season is on the final stretch, with 451 of the companies in the S&P 500 having reported. Of those, 66.7{3c4481f38fc19dde56b7b1f4329b509c88239ba5565146922180ec5012de023f} have beaten consensus, according to Refinitiv data.

In aggregate, earnings for the first three months of the year are seen falling by 12.1{3c4481f38fc19dde56b7b1f4329b509c88239ba5565146922180ec5012de023f} from the year-ago quarter, a stark reversal from the 6.3{3c4481f38fc19dde56b7b1f4329b509c88239ba5565146922180ec5012de023f} annual growth seen on Jan. 1.

Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) rose 4.2{3c4481f38fc19dde56b7b1f4329b509c88239ba5565146922180ec5012de023f} after its earnings beat, driven by a jump in demand for its work-from-home networking equipment.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.61-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.01-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted four new 52-week highs and 16 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 18 new highs and 110 new lows.

Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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