Wall Street soars after Federal Reserve announces new $2.3 trillion emergency plan

The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged by 450 points Thursday, after the Federal Reserve announced $2.3 trillion in emergency programs to shore up the economy.

The S&P 500 and tech-heavy Nasdaq also ticked higher on Thursday, with gains of close to 2 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.

The news came as weekly data from the Department of Labor showed another 6.6 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits, bringing the jobless total to more than 16 million in the past three weeks, or 10 percent of the nation’s workforce.

Thursday’s figure was at the high end of analyst estimates, which ranged from 4.5 million to 7 million.

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”The massive number of suddenly unemployed and furloughed Americans speaks to the urgency of our economic predicament, and the Federal Reserve is again responding in an equally massive way,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate. “Desperate times call for desperate measures and the Federal Reserve is throwing out all the stops.”

The Fed said the programs would include the Payroll Protection Program and other measures, and would be geared toward businesses with up to 10,000 employees and $2.5 billion in revenues for 2019.

“Our country’s highest priority must be to address this public health crisis, providing care for the ill and limiting the further spread of the virus,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said in a statement.

The slew of economic news comes as the White House more closely considers the timeline for reopening the millions of stores and businesses that have been shuttered since the pandemic took hold.

“It would be nice to open with a big bang,” President Donald Trump said Wednesday at a coronavirus task force news briefing, though he said he supported reopening the economy in phases, based on advice from health officials to hold off until the U.S. is “on the down side of the slope.”

Market observers will be listening closely to Fed Chair Powell as he delivers a speech at the Brookings Institution Thursday morning delineating the Fed’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

Wall Street is also keeping a close eye on the oil sector, which has added to market volatility for the last month, as Russia and Saudi Arabia have engaged in a price war. This week, there are two opportunities to resolve that dispute. On Thursday, there is an emergency meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. On Friday, G-20 energy ministers will meet.

In Europe, finance ministers are meeting for a second round of negotiations on a $543 billion stimulus bill. Their struggle to reach agreement has prompted European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde to urge resolution, saying, “If not all countries are cured, the others will suffer. Solidarity is in fact self-interest.”

Thursday is the last trading day for Wall Street this week, as markets are closed Friday due to the holidays.

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