Stocks jump on hope spending to blunt job losses

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U.S. stocks rallied as investors speculated the $2 trillion rescue package poised to pass Congress will lessen the pandemic's toll on the economy.

The S&P 500 extended its advance to as high as 4% in mid-morning, headed for its first three-day rally since February, with health stocks and utilities leading the way. Treasuries held gains and the dollar fell for a third day.

Jobless claims surged to a record 3.28 million Americans last week as businesses shut down to help prevent the spread of the virus. While the reading exceeded estimates, aid is on the way from the U.S. government to help offset the impact on workers and businesses. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell also sought to assure traders that the central bank wouldn't run out of crisis-fighting ammunition.

"It's no secret that times will be tough on the jobs front for the foreseeable future," said Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at ETrade Financial. "The real question at hand now is if the current stimulus package is enough to give Americans the support they need."

The claims data is one of the first major reports to show the extent of the damage to the American economy since states around the country began widespread business shutdowns aimed at preventing the coronavirus from spreading.

European stocks erased losses and edged higher. Sovereign debt rose after the region's central bank announced it will scrap limits on bond purchases for its emergency program, a landmark decision that gives it almost unlimited firepower to fight the economic fallout from the virus. The euro strengthened as a gauge of the dollar headed for a third day falling.

The rescue measures across major economies are unprecedented, yet traders remain cognizant of the virus's escalating toll. The world's cases now top 451,000 with more than 20,000 deaths. The U.S. death toll topped 1,000.

"Investors need to remain vigilant about how the growth rate of new cases develops and how governments respond going forward," said Oliver Blackbourn, a multi-asset portfolio manager at Janus Henderson Investors. "The support package should help to assuage the fears about the worst possible economic outcomes for individuals and companies."

Elsewhere, oil declined after three days of gains. Gold rose. Emerging-market shares and currencies climbed.

These are the main moves in markets:

Stocks:

- The S&P 500 Index rose 3.2% as of 10:50 a.m. New York time.

- The Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 0.1%.

- The MSCI Asia Pacific Index advanced 0.5%.

Currencies:

- The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index decreased 1%.

- The euro advanced 0.7% to $1.0962.

- The British pound increased 1% to $1.1997.

- The Japanese yen advanced 1.2% to 109.88 per dollar.

Bonds:

- The yield on 10-year Treasuries dipped seven basis points to 0.80%.

- Germany's 10-year yield decreased 10 basis points to -0.37%.

- Britain's 10-year yield fell six basis points to 0.38%.

Commodities:

- Gold rose 0.8% to $1,629.52 an ounce.

- WTI oil decreased 2.7% to $23.80 a barrel.

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