Wall Street jumps on hopes of potential coronavirus drug

(Reuters) – Wall Street jumped on Wednesday as Gilead Sciences gave an encouraging update on a potential COVID-19 treatment and upbeat earnings from Google-parent Alphabet boosted shares of other technology and internet giants.

Gilead (GILD.O) rose 4.8% after the drugmaker said its experimental antiviral drug remdesivir helped improve symptoms for COVID-19 patients who were given the drug early.

“The news on Gilead is really powering the market,” said Linda Duessel, senior equity strategist at Federated Hermes in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“While we wait for a vaccine, we are looking out for anything that will help us get back into society, and we’re all hanging on this data on a day-by-day basis.”

The three main indexes have recovered 30% from their mid-March lows, boosted by aggressive stimulus efforts and, more recently, on hopes of an economic revival as many U.S. states begin to relax lockdown measures.

Growth stocks such Facebook Inc (FB.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) gained between 2% and 6%, while Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) surged 8.6% as its quarterly report showed Google ad sales steadied in April.

The S&P 500 communication services sector index .SPLRCL jumped 4.6%, the most among the 11 major sub-indexes.

Boeing Co (BA.N) reported a loss for the second straight quarter, but its shares rose 3.7% after the planemaker said it would cut jobs and try to boost liquidity.

Analysts foresee a sharper decline in second-quarter earnings, with companies listed on the S&P 500 expected to record a 35.1% decline in profits following a 15% drop in the first quarter, according to Refinitiv data.

Meanwhile, markets shrugged off data that showed the U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter at its sharpest pace since the Great Recession, ending the longest expansion in history.

“The economic data is backward-looking and markets will continue to be forward-looking,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance in Charlotte, NC.

Markets are trying to anticipate a resumption of economic activity in the short run and a vaccine in the medium term, he said.

At 10:18 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 422.64 points, or 1.75%, at 24,524.19, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 58.81 points, or 2.05%, at 2,922.20 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 233.27 points, or 2.71%, at 8,841.01.

General Electric Co (GE.N) fell 1% after its industrial businesses took a $1 billion hit to cash flow in the first quarter and it warned the damage would worsen in the next.

All eyes will be on the policy statement by the Federal Reserve at the end of its two-day meeting at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT). The policymakers are expected to keep their promise to do whatever it takes to support the world’s largest economy.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 6.70-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 4.25-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded two new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 26 new highs and no new lows.

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