Stocks Extend Rally Even After Jobless Claims Top 3 Million

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Stocks were rising Thursday even after nearly 3.3 million out-of-work Americans file for unemployment.

Stocks rose 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 United States, 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.

“These numbers are a sign of just how much damage the labor market has quickly taken. The sudden stop nature of this economic shock has quickly thrown millions of people out of work,” said Indeed Hiring Lab’s director of economic research Nick Bunker. “Further worsening the picture, their likelihood of getting hired has recently dropped as well. Many of these workers were employed in industries that may have to remain shuttered for quite some time.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 459 points, or 2.17%, to 21,660, the S&P 500 gained 1.71% and the Nasdaq jumped 1.68%.

The S&P 500 recorded its first back-to-back gains Wednesday since the coronavirus-induced selloff began about five weeks ago.

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 that 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.

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 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 487,648, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, and deaths increased to 22,030.

The U.S. has 69,197 cases of the virus and deaths have climbed to 1,036. More than half of the U.S. cases are in New York state.

The U.S. death toll is just behind France, which has 1,331 deaths. Italy has the most deaths of any country, 7,503, 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.