Markets

S&P 500 erases its loss for the year as stocks rally on reopening optimism

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Markets continue to climb on coronavirus recovery optimism—Five experts explain the rally

The stock market rallied once again on Monday, pushing the S&P 500 into the green for the year as the benchmark completed its wild round trip amid the coronavirus pandemic. Investors are growing more and more optimistic about a speedy economic recovery as states continue to reopen. 

Stocks finished the day at their session highs with the S&P 500 jumping 1.2%, or 38.46 points, to 3,232.39. The equity benchmark turned positive for the year in the final moments of Monday and has now bounced more than 47% off its March low. At one point this year, the S&P 500 was down more than 30%. It's now positive for 2020 by 0.05%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded 461.46 points higher, or 1.7%, to 27,572.44, trimming its 2020 losses to 3.3%. The Nasdaq Composite was up 1.1% to 9,924.74, hitting a fresh record high and bringing its year-to-date gains to 10.6%.

"What is clearly happening is the excitement of reopening is allowing a lot of these companies that have been casualties of Covid to come back and come back in force, " said Stanley Druckenmiller, chairman and CEO of the Duquesne Family Office, on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "With a combination of the Fed money and, in particular, a vaccine where the news has been very, very good."

"Well I've been humbled many times in my career, and I'm sure I'll be many times in the future. And the last three weeks certainly fits that category," added the legendary hedge fund manager, who admitted he missed the comeback because he underestimated the Federal Reserve.

Stocks tied to the reopening of the economy, including airlines, retailers and cruise lines, led the gains once again. United Airlines was up 14.8%, while American Airlines jumped 9.2%. Kohl's added 8.4%. Shares of Carnival Corp. were up 15.8%.

Wall Street was also riding high on the back of a surprise surge in U.S. employment. The Labor Department said Friday the economy added 2.5 million jobs in May, a record. Economists polled by Dow Jones had forecast a drop of more than 8 million.

"The 2.5 million rebound in employment last month reverses only a small fraction of the jobs lost since February," said Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. "But considering we and the consensus had been braced for another large decline, it builds on the signs from some of the other macro data this week that economic activity is rebounding faster and more vigorously than we had anticipated."

Friday's strong jobs report led the major averages to sharp weekly gains. 

The Dow surged 6.8% last week while the S&P 500 jumped 4.9%. The Nasdaq Composite climbed 3.4%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq was the first of the three major indexes to trade back at all-time highs since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered the global economy.

"The stock market is almost looking past Covid and looking forward to the reopening," said Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial. "The concerns of another Covid outbreak are real, but the stock market is clearly saying it is much more in tune with the opening of the economy."

Detrick warned, however, "the market is ripe for a well-deserved break" after its blistering rally off the March lows. 

Since March 23, the S&P 500 has rallied more than 47% while the Dow has gained over 50%. Those gains come in large part from expectations of a swift economic recovery. 

"It appears that the most rapid bear market in history has been followed by the most dramatic recovery in history," wrote Marc Chaikin, CEO of Chaikin Analytics. "While COVID-19 cases are still growing in certain states, particularly outside of densely populated urban areas, investors see the glass as half-full and are looking ahead 12-18 months."

Data compiled by OpenTable shows restaurant bookings across the U.S. are now 80% below last year's levels. In April, bookings were down 100%. Hotel occupancy rates, home purchases and U.S. air travel have also started to increase.

Investors will be concentrating on the Federal Reserve's statement on interest rates Wednesday and a press conference from Chairman Jerome Powell. The Fed is expected to reiterate its commitment to unlimited asset purchases to keep markets functioning.

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