Wall Street jumps as historic job losses fewer than feared

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) - Major U.S. stock indexes jumped on Friday and logged solid gains for the week after data on historic job losses due to the coronavirus crisis showed they were slightly fewer than feared.

All 11 S&P 500 sectors were positive, led by the beaten-up energy group .

Gains in Apple shares also lifted the indexes after the iPhone maker said it will reopen a handful of U.S. stores starting next week.

The U.S. economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April, the Labor Department reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls diving by 22 million, but the decline still marked the steepest plunge since the Great Depression.

“It’s tough to call the jobs report, which is what everybody was waiting for, anything but a complete calamity, but relative to expectations you can see some silver linings in there,” said Brian Nick, chief investment strategist at Nuveen, pointing to the large number of temporary layoffs.

“Except for the initial panic in the month of March, in general the markets are ignoring economic data for the most part and are looking more at data related to COVID-19,” Nick said.

Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.91% to end at 24,330.77 points, while the S&P 500 gained 1.69%, to 2,929.77.

The Nasdaq Composite climbed 1.58% to 9,121.32.

Financial markets on Thursday began pricing in a negative U.S. interest rate environment for the first time, as investors grappled with the economic consequences of the new coronavirus outbreak.

Stocks have staged a sharp rebound since late March from the coronavirus-fueled sell-off, helped by massive monetary and fiscal stimulus. The tech-heavy Nasdaq on Thursday erased its 2020 declines and turned positive for the year.

Investors are now watching efforts by a number of states to spark their economies by easing restrictions put in place to fight the outbreak.

"People are watching closely to just see how this reopening process works," said Keith Lerner, chief market strategist at Truist/SunTrust Advisory Services.

"On the margin, you are starting to hear businesses say that things are starting to look better from a depressed level.”

Optimism for markets was also fed by news that U.S. and Chinese trade representatives discussed their Phase 1 trade deal, with China saying they agreed to improve the atmosphere for its implementation.

(Additional reporting by C Nivedita and Medha Singh in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Kate Duguid and Sinead Carew in New York; Editing by Sagarika Jaisinghani, Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Shinjini Ganguli and Cynthia Osterman)

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