Stocks spike as financials, materials rally on economic recovery prospects

Initial jobless claims fell to pandemic low of 684,000

U.S. equity markets curbed earlier losses and raced to gains in the late afternoon as President Biden conducted his first press conference since taking office and weekly jobless claims fell to the lowest level of the pandemic.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
I:DJI DOW JONES AVERAGES 34075.28 +259.38 +0.77%
SP500 S&P 500 4184.69 +49.71 +1.20%
I:COMP NASDAQ COMPOSITE INDEX 14024.589462 +206.18 +1.49%

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 200 points, or 0.62%, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.52% and 0.12%, respectively.

Financials, materials and industrials helped lead the rebound on prospects of the economic recovery.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
XLF FINANCIAL SELECT SECTOR SPDR ETF 35.38 +0.64 +1.83%
XLB MATERIALS SELECT SECTOR SPDR ETF 82.90 +1.34 +1.64%
XLI INDUSTRIAL SELECT SECTOR SPDR ETF 101.48 +1.01 +1.01%

The Dow traded lower by as many as 373 points midday as stocks saw early selling pressure after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned the central bank could begin tapering its asset purchase program.

“As we make substantial further progress toward our goals, we’ll gradually roll back the amount of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities we’ve bought,” Powell told NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

Powell's comments came as initial jobless claims fell to a coronavirus pandemic low of 684,000 and fourth-quarter GDP was revised up to 4.3% from 4.1%.

UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS SINK TO PANDEMIC LOWS

In stock news, Darden Restaurants Inc. reported stronger-than-expected quarterly revenue and said that same-store sales at its Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse brands have surpassed pre-pandemic levels during the second half of March. The company also announced minimum wage, including tips, will be raised to $10 per hour beginning on Monday and increased to $12 an hour by 2023.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
DRI DARDEN RESTAURANTS INC. 143.98 -1.20 -0.83%

GameStop shares soared on reports the video-game maker continues to shake-up management with the exodus of several board members.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
GME GAMESTOP 148.22 -2.91 -1.93%

As for other movers, tech shares that surged during the early stages of the pandemic were sharply lower with Square Inc., Tesla Inc. and Peloton Interactive Inc. among the biggest decliners.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
SQ SQUARE INC COM 244.50 -0.62 -0.25%
PTON PELOTON INTERACTIVE, INC. 100.02 -1.47 -1.45%
TSLA TESLA, INC. 734.88 +15.19 +2.11%

Elsewhere, Chinese tech companies traded in the U.S., including Alibaba Group Ltd. and Baidu Inc. were under pressure after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission began rolling out new measures that will boot foreign companies off American stock exchanges if they do not comply with audit standards.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
BABA ALIBABA GROUP HOLDING LTD 231.56 +2.27 +0.99%
BIDU BAIDU, INC. 219.35 +4.79 +2.23%

Nike Inc. shares were weaker after the sneaker giant was criticized on Chinese social media for expressing its concern regarding labor camps in Xinjiang, China.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
NKE NIKE, INC. 130.45 +1.37 +1.06%

ViacomCBS Inc. shares were lower for a third straight day after announcing a $3 billion offering of 20 million shares of Class B common stock at $85 apiece. The prior two days of selling caused the stock to drop 30% off its all-time high closing price of $100.34.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
VIAC VIACOMCBS, INC. 41.01 +0.28 +0.68%

In mergers and acquisitions, laser maker Coherent Inc. chose II-VI’s $7 billion buyout offer, spurning a deal made with Lumentum Holdings Inc. a few weeks prior. Coherent shareholders will receive $220 cash and 0.91 II-VI shares for each Coherent share owned.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
COHR COHERENT 269.65 +4.36 +1.64%
LITE LUMENTUM HOLDINGS 93.95 +1.65 +1.79%

Elsewhere, Cisco Systems Inc. was upgraded at Goldman Sachs to “buy” from “neutral” and given a $59 price target.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
CSCO CISCO SYSTEMS, INC. 51.90 +0.40 +0.77%

In commodities, West Texas Intermediate crude oil fell $2.62 to $58.56 per barrel and gold slid $8 to $1,724.90 an ounce.

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Overseas markets were mixed.

Britain’s FTSE 225 lagged in Europe, declining 1.07% while France’s CAC 40 and Germany’s DAX 30 edged up 0.09% and 0.08%, respectively.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 outperformed, climbing 1.14%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index and China’s Shanghai Composite ticked down 0.1% and 0.07%, respectively.