U.S. stocks soared on Wednesday after Gilead Sciences reported positive results from two tests that showed its drug remdesivir could be a Covid-19 treatment. The Fed also said Wednesday that it will leave rates near zero until it's confident the U.S. economy is on its feet and near full employment. The optimism about a viable coronavirus treatment and a supportive central bank offset the first U.S. GDP growth decline since 2014.
Here's what's happened:
Stocks closed higher on Wednesday after spending the entire day in the green. The Dow jumped 532 points for a gain of 2.21%, while the S&P 500 rose 2.66%. The Nasdaq was the relative outperformer for the day, posting a gain of 3.57%. Stocks rallied on optimism around a Gilead drug to treat the coronavirus, as well as on comments from Chairman Powell that the Federal Reserve will use its powers to the "absolute limit" following the coronavirus-induced downturn. - Stevens
Chris Meekins, a health care policy analyst Raymond James, said he expects to see an emergency-use authorization for Gilead's remdesivir soon. This would allow the drug to be administered outside of clinical trials. Typically, the government would assist a company in manufacturing a drug that has been given that authorization, if needed, he said.
"I would anticipate that being done pretty quickly since Dr. Fauci urges that. And the second piece would be continuing to advance the clinical trials and gain more data and advance in that way. And then the government would be looking at how much supply does the company have of the drug and are there resources that the government can then bring to bear helping to locate materials or assist with the manufacturing in some way for the company," Meekins said. — Pound
Fed Chair Powell said he was concerned about seeing a faster rise in unemployment among low-income workers and racial minorities, saying those groups are in a weaker position to weather a major economic shock. "It is important to do everything we can to avoid that longer-run damage and try to get back to where we were, because I do very much have that concern. I think everyone is suffering here, but I think those who are least able to bear it are the ones who are losing their jobs, losing their incomes and have little cushion to protect them in times like that," Powell said. — Pound
Powell said the coronavirus shock to the economy scores how important it is to "get your fiscal house in order," noting: "The U.S. really hadn't gotten back to where it needed to get on fiscal policy. We have an already high level of debt to GDP." Powell added the U.S. has the capacity to deal with this rising deficit, but reiterated that, ideally, the country would face such a shock with a "much stronger fiscal posture." — Imbert
Bond yields are slightly higher after the Fed failed to detail its plans for asset purchases. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, asked about the Fed's plan for QE, said the Fed thinks its current policy is appropriate. The Fed is currently buying about $10 billion in Treasurys a day and it has brought that number down. But unlike with past programs, the Fed has not laid out a long-term plan. "What it seems like is the Fed wants to keep testing the market to see how little do they need to buy," said Mark Cabana, head of short US rate strategy at Bank of America. Cabana thinks the Fed will ultimately buy $150 billion a month in Treasurys, less than now. He said yields moved higher after the Fed released its 2 p.m. ET statement. — Domm
Fed Chair Powell said now is going to be a time of sharp contraction in economic activity, high unemployment, and changed consumer habits. "We're going to see economic data for the second quarter that's worse than any data we've seen for the economy," Powell said in a virtual press conference on Wednesday following the central bank's policy decision. "There are direct consequences of the disease and the measures that we're taking to protect ourselves from it."
Gross domestic product fell 4.8% in the first quarter, according to government numbers released Wednesday. It marked the first negative GDP reading since 2014 and the lowest level since Q4 of 2008 during the worst of the financial crisis. — Fitzgerald
With roughly one hour left in the trading session, the major averages were up sharply and built on the month's already-strong gains. The Dow traded 559 points higher, or 2.3%. The S&P 500 gained 2.7% while the Nasdaq Composite advanced 3.6%. The S&P 500 was headed for its biggest one-month gain since 1974 while the Dow was on track for its best monthly performance since 1987. — Imbert
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that the Federal Reserve will use all of its powers to support the economy and markets during the coronavirus crisis. Powell said there are legal restrictions on what the central bank can do, such as not being allowed to limit to insolvent companies, but that it will do everything it is allowed to do."We can do what we can do, and we will do it to the absolute limit of those powers," Powell said. — Pound
Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said more stimulus is needed to ensure a robust economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
"It may well be the case that the economy will need more support from all of us if the recovery is to be a robust one," Powell said in a virtual press conference on Wednesday following the central bank's policy decision. "We can do what we can do."
"Will there be a need to do more though? I think the answer to that would be yes," he added. — Li
"Overall economic activity will likely drop at an unprecedented rate in the second quarter," Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday afternoon following the Federal Open Market Committee meeting. "Both the depth and duration of the economic downturn are extraordinary uncertain, and will depend in large part on how quickly the virus is brought under control," he added. — Stevens
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell began a video call press conference by detailing the central bank's plan to leave interest rates near zero to help support the U.S. economy as the coronavirus continues to keep hundreds of businesses closed.
"When the spread of the virus is under control, businesses will reopen and people will come back to work," he said. "We will continue to use our tolls to ensure that the recovery, when it comes, will be as robust as possible." — Franck
U.S. stock held near session highs following the release of the Federal Reserve's April meeting statement. The Dow traded up about 550 points, or 2.2%, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite rose 2.6% and 3.3%, respectively. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will speak with reporters via video call at 2:30 p.m. ET to discuss the central bank's decision as well as field questions about how much damage the coronavirus is inflicting on the U.S. economy. — Franck
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday promised to keep interest rates near zero until it is comfortable that the U.S. economy is back on its feet and full employment has returned.
"The ongoing public health crisis will weigh heavily on economic activity, employment, and inflation in the near term, and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term," the committee said in its post-meeting statement. "The Committee expects to maintain this target range until it is confident that the economy has weathered recent events and is on track to achieve its maximum employment and price stability goals."
The forward guidance represents a commitment to hold rates near zero and keep them there until full employment returns and inflation gets back to around the Fed's long-stated 2% goal. — Franck, Cox
Lyft is laying off 982 employees and furloughing an additional 288 in an effort to reduce operating expenses and adjust cash flows due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the company announced Wednesday in a regulatory filing. Lyft stock was up nearly 4% Wednesday afternoon, amid a broader market rally thanks to a study from drug maker Gilead that showed promising results for antiviral drug remdesivir in Covid-19 patients. The layoffs account for 17% of the company's workforce, Lyft said. Lyft also has implemented reductions in base salary for employees exempt from the layoffs and furloughs for a twelve-week period. The salary cuts, which begin in May, will consist of a 30% reduction for executive leadership, 20% for vice presidents and 10% for all other exempt employees, Lyft said. — Bursztynsky
There's no shortage of topics when Facebook reports its first-quarter earnings after the bell on Tuesday. As it was with Alphabet, advertising revenue will be closely watched by analysts and investors. "Our field checks point to significant volatility in the digital advertising market over the past few weeks on account of the COVID-19 pandemic," Goldman Sachs said. Most analysts are sticking with the stock, though. "FB remains one of our top picks across our coverage," JPMorgan said. — Bloom
Economists at both Barclays and Bank of America upped their forecast for Thursday's jobless claims to just about 4 million, above the consensus 3.5 million forecast. Bank of America said the claims now look to be 4.0 million to 4.2 million, from their previous estimate of 3.5 million. Barclays economists raised their forecast to 4 million from 3.25 million. Claims for the prior week, ending April 18, rose by 4.4 million, bringing the total claims filed to 26.4 million in a five-week period. Bank of America economists said they find claims have only declined 2.5% from last week, after scanning local news on state-level data. They found claims in 10 states and the District of Columbia increased by 18.6%. For instance, they found reports of claims rising to 437,000 in Texas from 280,000 the week earlier. Claims in New Jersey reportedly rose to 200,000 for the week ended April 25, from 139,000 the week before. Google trends for searches of unemployment benefits shows that a larger decline of 10 to 15%, the economists said. Barclays economists said they also changed their forecast based on state data, including a jump in unemployment-related phone calls to New York state. — Domm
Alphabet — Shares of Google-parent Alphabet rose 9% following the technology giant's quarterly earnings. The report showed advertising revenue slowed but is starting to moderate. Adjusted earnings came in at $9.87 per share, lower than the $10.33 forecast by analysts, according to Refinivitv.
Gilead Sciences — Gilead Sciences' stock jumped more than 6% after it said two studies showed that one of its therapies could be a viable treatment for Covid-19. Its drug trial showed at least 50% of patients treated with a five-day dosage of antiviral drug remdesivir improved and more than half were discharged from the hospital within two weeks.
Boeing — Boeing shares jumped 8.4% after the airplane maker said it would cut payroll by about 10% as it faces a dismal market for aircraft. Boeing burned through more than $4 billion in cash during the first quarter, the company's latest quarterly report showed.
Spotify – Shares of Spotify popped 11% after the music streaming service reported a smaller-than-expected loss in the first quarter. Its revenue came in line with forecasts as it added more users in both the paying and ad-supported categories. Read more about midday movers here. — Li
Wall Street is cheering the news that a viable coronavirus treatment could be on the horizon after a pair of studies showed a drug from Gilead Sciences worked in patients. "Put down the bleach, remdesivir is coming," JPMorgan's biotech analyst Cory Kasimov said in a note to clients on Wednesday. The analyst's comment is a tongue-in-cheek reference to President Donald Trump's words last week about injecting disinfectants into the body. The president later said he was being sarcastic. — Li
Stocks extended their rally in midday trading with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining more than 600 points. The S&P 500 jumped nearly 3% and the Nasdaq Composite rose more than 3.5%. — Fitzgerald
Around midday, the major averages were up sharply after news of Gilead's remdesivir drug raised expectations for a potential coronavirus treatment. The Dow was up 500 points, or 2.1%. The S&P 500 traded 2.4% higher while the Nasdaq Composite advanced 3%. — Imbert
Shoppers are increasingly paying in ways that don't involve touching cash, or handing over a credit card, because of fears of the coronavirus, according to Mastercard. The credit-card giant reported a 40% jump in contactless payments — including tap-to-pay and mobile pay — during the first quarter as the global pandemic worsened. Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga said the trend was being driven by consumers "looking for a quick way to get in and out of stores without exchanging cash, touching terminals, or anything else." "We are seeing an increase in the use of contactless transactions, and we think this trend will continue after the pandemic," Banga said Wednesday on Mastercard's first-quarter earnings call with analysts. — Rooney
Oil prices surged on Wednesday after data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed that U.S. inventories rose by 9 million barrels for the week ending April 24, which was smaller than the 11.7 million barrel build analysts polled by FactSet had been expecting. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, jumped 31.7%, or $3.92, to trade at $16.26 per barrel. International benchmark Brent was 11.3% higher at $22.78 per barrel. The data also showed that U.S. production has dropped to 12.1 million barrels per day, which is 1 million barrels per day less than the record high of 13.1 million bpd from the week ending March 13. — Stevens
According to a review of state plans by CNBC, 13 states have already partially reopened and another 7 have announced a date to do so in the next week or so. In all, CNBC's analysis finds 118 million Americans, or slightly more than a third of the population, are living in states that have partially reopened or will be soon. Georgia with its 10.6 million people is the largest state to partially reopen followed by Tennessee and Indiana. Among those states set to reopen soon, Texas will be the largest with its 28 million residents. While the reopening plans have sparked concern that they are too soon and carry risk of a potential new round of contagion, they also offer the possibility, if successful, of a faster economic rebound than forecast. — Liesman
Wednesday morning's rally has brought the S&P 500 to nearly the same level it was a year ago, before anyone had ever heard of Covid-19. The index is now down just 0.7% over the past 12 months. The index has rallied more than 30% since late March. — Pound
General Electric CEO Larry Culp told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" he does not think the industrial giant will need more capital to address its liquidity needs, noting: "Having an 18-month running start helps a great deal. We were already in the process of improving and changing a good bit about our company." Culp took over as CEO on October 2018. Those comments came after the company's latest earnings report showed a cash-flow hit of $1 billion due to the coronavirus pandemic. GE also said it is targeting cost cuts of more than $2 billion and $3 billion in cash preservation. — Imbert
Home sales took a deep dive in March as the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the economy and homebuyers and sellers pulled out of the normally busy spring market. Signed contracts to buy existing homes, referred to as pending home sales, fell 20.8% compared with February and were 16.3% lower annually, according to the National Association of Realtors. The existing home market had already been suffering from a severe shortage of properties for sale, and that supply hit a record low in March. Not only did potential sellers decide against listing their homes in the current economic environment, but some sellers already on the market delisted their properties. — Olick
The S&P 500 opened above the 2,900 level for the first time since March 6, but the big story this week is that the market rally is broadening out. Small cap Russell 2000 and equal weight S&P 500 ETF (RSP) are outperforming the overall market. This week, the S&P 500 is up 1.9%, while the equal-weight S&P 500 is up 6.9%, and the Russell 2000 is up 8%. The former market laggards — banks, industrials, and energy — are now the market leaders. — Pisani
U.S. equities jumped at the opening bell on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 430 points or 1.8%. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also registered gains of 2% and 2.2%, respectively. Fueling the rally was positive news out of Gilead, regarding a possible treatment for the coronavirus. — Fitzgerald
CNBC's Jim Cramer said the promising Gilead results are lifting equity markets as more people see the findings as further reason to reopen sections of the U.S. economy.
"The idea of something that is just given to you in the hospital IV that makes it so that it eliminates the, let's say, the odds of you dying is something that makes us feel like that maybe this is the Tamiflu for this dreaded disease," Cramer said. "I think a lot people are going to say open [the economy] up and that's why the market's flying."
Dow futures were last seen up 425 points, suggesting a rally of at least 480 points at the start of trade at 9:30 a.m. ET. — Franck
Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said that Wednesday's announcements from Gilead about trials of remdesivir against the coronavirus were "another data point that continues to move the story in the same direction." He said that the antiviral drug would not be a "home run" or a cure, but that it could possibly be used in earlier stages of the infection to avoid worse outcomes, similar to how Tamiflu is used against the seasonal flu.
"We use it in the emergency room when people come in with the flu and we have it right away for people who might be at risk for the worst outcome," Gottlieb said. "I think remdesivir could be used in a similar fashion. And so far all the data that we've seen accrue does suggest that there's a treatment effect here." — Pound
Gilead Sciences' stock jumped more than 10% in premarket trading Wednesday after two studies showed that one of its therapies could be a viable treatment for Covid-19.
In addition to upbeat commentary about the government's study of Gilead's potential Covid-19 treatment, the company added Wednesday that a separate study of its therapy remdesivir led to symptom improvement in patients with severe cases of the coronavirus. Gilead said the study of 200 patients showed that symptom remedy can be achieved in some with a 5-day regimen.
"These study results complement data from the placebo-controlled study of remdesivir conducted by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and help to determine the optimal duration of treatment with remdesivir," Merdad Parsey, Gilead's chief medical officer, said in a statement. "The study demonstrates the potential for some patients to be treated with a 5-day regimen, which could significantly expand the number of patients who could be treated with our current supply of remdesivir." — Franck
Gross domestic product fell 4.8% in the first quarter, according to government numbers released Wednesday. The data provides another crucial look at how, and to what extent, the coronavirus is dragging on U.S. economic activity. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had expected the first estimate of GDP to show a 3.5% contraction.
This marked the first negative GDP reading since the 1.1% decline in the first quarter of 2014 and the lowest level since the 8.4% plunge in Q4 of 2008 during the worst of the financial crisis. Most economists see the U.S. in recession already even though the technical definition is generally two consecutive quarters of negative growth. The fourth quarter of 2019 saw GDP rise 2.1%. — Cox
Equity futures jumped around 8:30 a.m. ET after Gilead Sciences said it's learned of positive data emerging from the National Institute and Infectious Diseases' study of its drug remdesivir for treating Covid-19. Gilead said the trial has "met its primary endpoint" and advised investors that government officials will provide further details at an upcoming briefing. — Franck
Energy stocks moved higher during Wednesday's premarket trading following a more than 16% jump in West Texas Intermediate. The Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund, which tracks the sector and trades under the ticker XLE, rose 2.3%. Phillips 66, Diamondback Energy and Marathon Petroleum all gained more than 4%, while Exxon and Chevron each traded more than 1% higher. — Stevens
The Federal Reserve is widely expected to hold its benchmark interest rate at its historically low level Wednesday, when it wraps up its April meeting. The central bank could announce some other policies, such as giving more guidance on how long it expects to hold interest rate steady or new programs to drive down long-term rates. Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, said in a note to clients that he would like to hear more details about some of the Fed's already-announced programs, including the Main Street Lending Program that is not yet operational. — Pound, Cox
The majority of wealthy investors are waiting for stocks to drop by 5% to 20% before buying in, according to a survey from UBS. Globally, 61% said they were waiting for a drop, while 23% said now was a good time to buy. Investors in the U.S. were more pessimistic about the next six months than those in the rest of the world. Just 35% of investors in the U.S. said they were optimistic about stocks in their own region in the next six months, compared with 46% in Europe and 51% in Asia. — Pound
Oil prices jumped on Wednesday following a report that showed a smaller-than-expected build in U.S. inventories. West Texas Intermediate for June delivery surged 17.10%, or $2.11, to $14.45 per barrel, while international benchmark Brent crude traded 4.8% higher at $21.49. The surge higher came after data from the American Petroleum Institute showed that U.S. crude inventories jumped by 10 million barrels in the week to April 24, to 510 million barrels. That was lower than analysts' expectations of a build of 10.6 million barrels, according to estimates from Reuters. — Stevens
The first comprehensive look at how much damage the coronavirus did to the U.S. economy will come at 8:30 a.m. ET, when the government reports its initial estimate of gross domestic product for the first quarter of 2020. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expect that GDP in the first quarter fell 3.5%, which would be the first negative reading in six years. But, even that number will underestimate the depth of a recession caused by stay-at-home orders to combat the coronavirus, which are expected to take an even greater toll on the second quarter. Goldman Sachs economists think further revisions could take the number down to 8% or more, rivaling the worst reading since the 8.4% plunge in Q4 of 2008. — Cox
Shares of Google-parent Alphabet rose more than 7% in premarket trading on Wednesday following the technology giant's quarterly earnings. The report showed advertising revenue slowed but starting to moderate; despite an increase in usage on YouTube and other apps, advertising revenue suffered. "The decline in our Search and other ads revenue was abrupt in March, and although we're seeing some early signs at this point that users are returning to more commercial behavior, it's not clear how durable or monetizable that will be," Alphabet CFO said. Adjusted earnings came in at $9.87 per share, lower than the $10.33 forecast by analysts, according to Refinivitv. Revenue came in at $41.16 billion, topping estimates of $40.29 billion. — Fitzgerald
Stock futures jumped in early trading on Wednesday and pointed to healthy gains at the open ahead of the Federal Reserve's latest monetary policy decision and key GDP data. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were up 133 points and implied an opening gain of around 182 points. S&P 500 futures rose 1% and Nasdaq 100 futures added 1.4%.
Investors are focused on the Fed's upcoming interest rate decision and comments on the state of the U.S. economy, due for release at 2 p.m. ET. Wall Street will pore over the central bank's usual statement and subsequent comments by Chairman Jerome Powell for hints about how long officials think rates will remain near zero as the economy grapples with the coronavirus crisis.
Another potential market mover will be the Commerce Department's first report on first-quarter gross domestic product. Economists polled by Dow Jones forecast that U.S. GDP growth fell by 3.5% in the first quarter on an annualized basis. Such a slide would represent the first decline in U.S. economic growth in six years. U.S. GDP grew by 2.1% in the fourth quarter of 2019. — Franck
— CNBC's Michael Bloom, Jeff Cox, Bob Pisani, Diana Olick, Kate Rooney, Yun Li, Steve Liesman, Patti Domm, Fred Imbert and Jesse Pound contributed reporting.
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