Stock market live Thursday: Dow drops nearly 300, best month since 1987, historic volatility

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McDonald's reports mixed Q1 earnings — Posts revenue beat, EPS miss
McDonald's reports mixed Q1 earnings — Posts revenue beat, EPS miss

Stocks fell on the final trading day of April as economic data weighed on investor sentiment. Jobless claims have now topped 30 million over the last six weeks, and data showed a plunge in consumer spending and personal incomes in March. The Dow and S&P 500 still posted their best month since the 1980s. Optimism has been driven by hopes that economies will gradually begin to reopen, as well as by positive results from a Gilead Sciences drug trial for a coronavirus treatment. Here's what happened:

4:25 pm: Historic month by the numbers

  • S&P 500 closed down 0.92% for its second negative day in three
  • S&P 500 closed up 12.68% this month for its best month since Jan 1987 when it gained 13.18%   
  • S&P 500 is down 9.85% this year, on pace for its worst year since 2008 when it lost 38.49%
  • From record: S&P 500 is 14.18% below its intraday all-time high of 3,393.52 from Feb. 19
  • From March 23 52-week low: S&P 500 is 32.87% above its 52-week low of 2,191.86
  • Dow closed down 1.17% for its second negative day in three
  • Dow closed up 11.08% this month for its best month since Jan 1987 when the Dow gained 13.82%   
  • Dow is down 14.69% this year, on pace for its worst year since 2008 when the Dow lost 33.64%
  • From Record: Dow is 17.66% below its intraday all-time high of 29,568.57 from Feb. 12
  • From March 23 52-week low: Dow is 33.67% above its 52-week low of 18,213.65 —Francolla

4:01 pm: Dow ends day 288 points lower, but posts best month since 1987

Stocks slipped on Thursday amid more dismal economic data, but major stock averages still enjoyed a historically strong month. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped about 288 points, trimming its April gains to 11%, still the best month since 1987. The S&P 500 finished the day down about 0.9%, but the 12.6% advance this month marks its best monthly performance since 1987. The Nasdaq fell about 0.3% as a 5% gain in Facebook capped losses in the tech-heavy index.— Li

3:00 pm: Oil surges 25%, but ends the month in the red

West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. oil benchmark, jumped 25.10% on Thursday to settle at $18.84 for its second positive session in a row. Despite a strong week that's seen it rally double digits, WTI ended April with a loss of 8%. It was the benchmark's fourth straight negative month for the first time since 2017. Recent optimism has stemmed from a smaller-than-expected inventory build last week, as well as the hope that economies will gradually begin to reopen. For the year oil is still down 70%. —Stevens

2:53 pm: Final hour of trading: Stocks head for best month in decades despite losses

The major averages were on pace for their best monthly performance in decades on Thursday despite steep losses in the final session of April. The Dow and S&P 500 are up 10.8% and 12.2%, respectively month to date. If those gains hold, it will be their best month since 1987. The Nasdaq Composite has risen nearly 15%, which would be its biggest monthly gain since April 2001. However, dismal economic data pushed equities lower on Thursday. —Imbert

2:25 pm: Historic market volatility in March and April

Following a March decline of 12.5%, the S&P 500 is on track to finish up about 12% in April. The S&P 500 index has experienced such consecutive monthly swings of 10% or more in either direction only five times in history, a CNBC analysis of market data found. In four of these cases, the market declined by 10% or more only to surge back by that amount or greater the following month. In August and September of 1933, the opposite pattern occurred.— Rattner

2:10 pm: Goldman says Q1 GDP now down 7.75%

Goldman Sachs economists said the economy contracted even more than the 4.8% the government reported Wednesday. Based on the latest spending data for March, Goldman said it looks like the economy now contracted by 7.75% in March. Personal spending fell 7.5% in March, a record going back to 1959 when the series began. They also pointed to a sharp decline in business fixed investment in March.—Domm

1:37 pm: Trump says he's 'in charge' of 'fast track' work to produce a coronavirus vaccine

President Donald Trump said Thursday that U.S. officials and scientists are working as quickly as possible to produce a coronavirus vaccine, and he asserted that he's in charge of its development in "Operation Warp Speed." "I hope we're going to have a vaccine and we're going to fast-track a vaccine like you've never seen before if we come with a vaccine. I think they probably will," he told reporters during a White House meeting with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. — Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

12:50 pm: Stocks making the biggest moves midday

Abiomed — Shares of the medical supply company soared by more than 13% after it announced results for its fiscal fourth quarter and a new acquisition. The company's revenue came in at $206.7 million, just below Wall Street expectations of $207.2 million, according to FactSet.

Tapestry — Shares of Tapestry cratered more than 9% following its disappointing quarterly results. The retailer reported a loss of 27 cents per share, while analysts expected a loss of 12 cents per share, according to Refinitiv. Tapestry withdrew its full-year forecast after the coronavirus pandemic forced it to close stores, and the company has suspended dividends and share repurchases.

Molson Coors — Shares of the beer company fell 11% after Molson Coors missed Wall Street expectations for first quarter revenue. The company reported sales of $2.1 billion for the quarter, below the consensus expectation of $2.23 billion, according to FactSet.

Click here to read about more movers. –Pound

12:30 pm: Florida has overtaken California as the US jobless claims capital

Florida overtook California on Thursday as the U.S. state with the most weekly unemployment claims as Tallahassee began to process in earnest its sizable backlog of filings. Florida, which reported 432,465 jobless claims for the week ended April 25, topped California's 328,042, marking the first time since the week ended March 21 that the Golden State didn't lead the nation in the number of workers filing for unemployment benefits. —Franck

12:00 pm: Markets at midday: Dow drops 300 points, but is still headed for best month since 1987

The Dow and the S&P 500 were down sharply around midday amid dismal economic data, but were still on pace for their largest monthly gains since the 1980s. The Dow dropped over 300 points, or 1.5%, while the S&P 500 slid 1.2%. For the month, however, both indexes are up over 10%. — Imbert

11:13 am: Demand for Boeing bonds is strong, sources say

Sources told CNBC's David Faber that demand for new Boeing debt was strong across multiple maturities. Boeing shares jumped 3% to highs of the day amid the report. The strong demand for Boeing's paper could add up to as much as $75 billion in 5-, 7-, 10-, 20-, 30-, and 40-year bonds for the plane maker, people familiar with the matter said. Boeing is interested in raising up to $20 billion in new debt, but given the increased demand, the company may be looking for more now, sources said. The pricing being floated around is at the benchmark Treasury yield plus 500 basis points, and Boeing has access for durations across the board, sources said. — Li

11:03 am: S&P heads for third-best month since World War II

Despite Thursday's losses, the S&P 500 remained on track to post one of its best monthly performances since World War II. The broader market average is up about 13% in April. That would be its biggest one-month gain since January 1987 and third-biggest monthly jump since the Second World War. — Imbert, Rattner

10:45 am: Stocks are headed for their best month in decades, yet most of Wall Street hates this rally

As encouraging as the market comeback this month has been, Wall Street has little faith in it. A leveling out of coronavirus hospitalizations, rising hopes for a treatment and a partial reopening of the economy sparked a steep rebound this month, with the S&P 500 popping more than 13%, on track for its best month since 1987 and its third best month ever since World War II.

However, a lack of an all-clear on the pandemic front, coupled with worrisome technical and sentiment indicators, lead many Wall Street pros to believe the market is getting way ahead of itself."Beware of the oddity in this bear rally," Andrew Lapthorne, global head of quantitative research at Societe Generale, said in a note Thursday. "Given the overall negative undertone from the economic challenges ahead, the dramatic reversal of global markets after the pandemic lows is more puzzling." — Li

10:27 am: Here are Thursday's biggest analyst calls of the day, including DraftKings, Facebook & Southwest 

  • BMO initiated Moderna as outperform.
  • Loop downgraded Dollar General to hold from buy.
  • Morgan Stanley initiated DraftKings as overweight.
  • Canaccord downgraded Shopify to hold from buy.
  • Pivotal upgraded Facebook to hold from sell.
  • Stifel upgraded Southwest Airlines to buy from hold.
  • Stephens resumed coverage of Brinker as overweight.

CNBC PRO subscribers can read more here— Bloom

10:14 am: Shell's dividend cut casts doubts on US majors, adds to negative market mood

Investors take what comfort they can in the dividends of big oil majors, like Exxon Mobil and Chevron. So Royal Dutch Shell's dividend cut — its first since World War II — was unnerving for investors in the sector. The stocks of both Exxon and Chevron sagged Thursday morning after a week of gains. Both majors report earnings Friday, and dividend comments will be closely watched. Shell cut its dividend 66% to $0.16 per share. Its stock plummeted more than 11%. With energy stocks under pressure with this year, Exxon's yield is 7.4% and Chevron's was at 5.5%. — Domm

10:10 am: Consumers cut back most ever on services, and are saving most since 1975 

Consumer spending on services fell the most ever in March, and Americans also saved their income at the highest rate since 1975.

Overall consumer spending fell 7.5% in March, the steepest decline in records that go back to 1959. Within that number, spending on services fell by 9.5%, the worst ever for a sector that was about 69% of consumer spending in February. Consumers make up about 67% of the economy. The worst decline previously was a 1.3% drop in services spending in September, 2001 after 9/11. The number was barely negative during the Great Recession, with a 0.3% decline in February, 2009.

"There's nothing close. It's the worst in history," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton. While Americans stopped spending, they also saved more — 13.1% of their income. The savings rate in March was the highest since the 17.3% in May, 1975 and rivals the level in the early 1980s recession, she said. — Domm

10:04 am: S&P 500 facing technical pressure near 3,000 level

Strategist Michael Shaoul pointed out in a note the S&P 500 is facing resistance around the 3,000 level after the average's relentless rally this month. "This level can be expected to combine selling pressure from investors looking to lighten portfolios at attractive levels with pressure from systematic investors to flip to long positions if resistance is overcome," Shaoul, chairman and CEO of Marketfield Asset Management, wrote in a note to clients. "Given the massive gains seen in April a straightforward "punch through" looks like a tall order, particularly since a lot of medical progress and economic recovery has already been discounted by the market." —Imbert

9:55 am: 'Did someone blow up?' asks Cramer

Stocks moved higher on Wednesday with many of the names that have been hardest hit by the pandemic – such as cruise lines, airlines and retailers – rebounding, which led CNBC's Jim Cramer to question if the rally was simply hedge funds covering short positions. "We seemed to have a big short squeeze last night … did someone blow up?" he asked Thursday. "There was no real explanation other than perhaps short covering given the beaten they've taken," added CNBC's David Faber. Norwegian Cruise Line has surged 41% this week, while Royal Caribbean Cruises and Carnival Corp are each up more than 25% on the week. For the year, however, they are all down more than 60%. Airlines were another group leading the rally, with Untied, America and Delta all up more than 12% this week. Much like the cruise lines, however, they've posted steep losses for the year, with all three down more than 55%. – Stevens

9:30 am: Stocks drop as jobless claims weigh

Stocks opened in the red on the final day of April trading, in what's otherwise been an overall strong month of stocks. The Dow dropped 264 points for a loss of 1%, the S&P 500 shed 0.7%, while the Nasdaq Composite was flat. Jobless claims, which have now topped 30 million over the last six weeks, weighed on markets, as did a plunge in consumer spending and personal incomes in March. – Stevens

9:08 am: Consumer spending drops in March

U.S. consumer spending dropped 7.5% in March, compared with a year earlier, as Americans stayed home in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The slowdown in spending also came as personal incomes dropped 2% in March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. – Stevens, Schoen

8:45 am: Jobless claims top 30 million over the past 6 weeks

The Labor Department reported another 3.84 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total number to more than 30 million in a six-week period. The jump in unemployment claims wiped out the job gains made since the financial crisis as businesses are forced to shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. "Bottom line … it's like banging your head against the wall and then having a headache," said Peter Boockvar of Bleakley Advisory Group in a note. "We don't need to analyze why you have a headache, only how long it lasts. The claims number will continue to come down as more people start to go back to work in coming weeks and months." —ImbertCox

8:38 am: Tesla shares jump following earnings

Tesla shares gained 8% during Thursday's premarket trading after the electric vehicle maker posted a profit for the third straight quarter. In the first quarter the company earned $1.24 per share, ex-items, on $5.99 billion in revenue. Wall Street was expecting an adjusted loss of 36 cents per share and revenue of $5.9 billion for Q1, according to a survey of analysts by Refinitiv. However, estimates varied widely and comparing Tesla's actual results with estimates isn't straightforward, given the difficulty of predicting the impact of the coronavirus. —Stevens, Kolodny

7:41 am: Facebook shares jump on ad revenue 'stability'

Shares of the social media giant jumped more than 8% in the premarket after the company reported "stability" in its ad revenue after a decline in March. Facebook said its March ad revenues dropped sharply amid the coronavirus pandemic, but noted it stabilized in the first few weeks of April. The company's overall revenues for the first quarter beat expectations. "The COVID impact, while negative, is less severe for FB (25 points of decel) than peers such as Google search, Snap or Twitter, showing strength of FB's news feed auction," writes BofA Securities analyst Justin Post. —Imbert

7:40 am: Oil prices jump on optimism surrounding economies reopening

Oil prices jumped on Thursday, extending Wednesday's surge, on optimism that economies might soon begin to reopen. West Texas Intermediate crude futures climbed $2.36, or 15.7%, to $17.43 per barrel. The U.S. benchmark surged 22% on Wednesday. Brent was up 11.4%, or $2.57 at $25.11 a barrel in light trading, with the June contract expiring on Thursday, having posted a 10% gain on Wednesday. Oil also rose after data showed a smaller-than-expected build in U.S. stockpiles, as well as an announcement from Norway's oil minister that the country would curb production for the first time in 18 years in an effort to help shore up prices. –Stevens

7:32 am: Weekly jobless claims expected to hit 3.5 million

The unprecedented swelling of the unemployment ranks continued last week, with first-time jobless claims expected to hit 3.5 million when the Labor Department releases its latest count Thursday at 8:30 a.m. ET. If that's accurate, it would take the running six-week total close to 30 million as the economic freeze brought about by the coronavirus continues. The only bright side is that the level of filing appears to have peaked from the nearly 6.9 million who filed the week of March 28. –Cox

7:30 am: Stock futures flat, on pace for best month in decades

U.S. equity futures were mainly flat on Thursday as market participants digested strong technology earnings and awaited jobless claims. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures implied an opening gain of around 70 points. S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 futures also pointed to gains at the open. 

Stock surged on Wednesday, with the Dow rising more than 500 points. The rally was helped by hopes of a coronavirus treatment from Gilead and commentary by the Federal Reserve that the central bank will take any measures necessary to support the economy. Equities were also helped by strength in technology stocks, like Alphabet, which jumped more than 5%. The S&P technology sector closed in positive territory for the year.  

Thursday is the last trading day if April. The S&P 500 is on track for its biggest one-month gain since 1974. The Dow is on pace for its best month since 1987. — Fitzgerald 

- With reporting from Gina Francolla, Nate Rattner, Patti Domm, Jeff Cox, Michael Bloom, Yun Li and Lora Kolodny.

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