Stocks finished higher Wednesday with retailers posting strong quarterly earnings, Facebook and Amazon posting record highs, and Wall Street looking warily to the reopening of the U.S. economy.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 369 points, or 1.5% to 24,576, the S&P 500 rose 1.67% to its highest closing level since early March, and the Nasdaq jumped 2.1%.
Facebook finished up 6% to $229.97, while Amazon rose 2% to $2,497.94, with both tech titans reaching record highs.
The Federal Reserve said in the minutes of its April 29 meeting released Wednesday that the coronavirus “posed considerable downside risks to the economic outlook.”
“Members agreed that the Federal Reserve was committed to using its full range of tools to support the U.S. economy in this challenging time,” the minutes said.
Wall Street has been betting the U.S. economy will begin to recover from the coronavirus pandemic as the country gradually begins reopening — all of the 50 U.S. states have reopened to some degree. But with lockdowns being lifted and stores again welcoming customers, there is a fear that without a vaccine the U.S. could see a resurgence in infections and would be forced to shut down again.
President Donald Trump, who has been pushing hard to get the economy restarted, said he expects “a really great third quarter” as state lockdowns are lifted. However, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said this week that a recovery may have to wait until the end of next year or the arrival of an effective vaccine.
Oil prices settled higher Wednesday after the Energy Information Administration reported U.S. crude inventories fell by 5 million barrels in the week ended May 15, the second weekly drop in a row. West Texas Intermediate crude oil rose 4.8% to $33.49 a barrel.
Target posted first-quarter earnings better than analysts’ forecasts as digital same-store sales surged 141%, pushing revenue higher and offsetting a $500 million increase in coronavirus costs.
Lowe’s reported stronger-than-expected first-quarter earnings and said its solid performance continued in May as big retailers that remained open during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic continued to book big top- and bottom-line gains.
Lowe’s said adjusted earnings for the quarter ended in April were $1.77 a share, firmly ahead of the Wall Street consensus forecast of $1.22. Revenue rose 11% to $19.7 billion, with same-store sales in the U.S. rising 12.3% and digital sales surging by around 80%.
“There’s a consensus around the fact that companies can adapt [to the pandemic], but at the expense of slightly higher costs,” said Michael Hewson, the chief market analyst at CMC Markets.
Johnson & Johnson will stop selling talc-based baby powder in the U.S. and Canada following thousands of lawsuits that claim women who used the product got cancer.
Johnson & Johnson said it was discontinuing sales of the product as demand for “talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in North America has been declining due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising.”