UPDATE: Dow closes 550 points higher, as investors look past dismal economic data and escalating U.S.-China tensions
By Joy Wiltermuth and Sunny Oh
U.S. declares that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous
Major U.S. stock benchmarks roared higher Wednesday, despite the battered state of the American economy and rising tensions between Beijing and Washington as investors focused on efforts to reopen more states for business.
How did major indexes fare?
The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 553.16 points, or 2.2%, to finish at 25,548.27, while the S&P 500 rose 44.36 points, or 1.5%, ending at 3,036.13. The Nasdaq Composite gained 72.14 points, or 0.8%, to close at 9,412.36, staging its biggest intraday percentage comeback since Feb. 28, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
On Tuesday, the Dow jumped 529.95 points, or 2.2%, to finish at 24,995.11, while the S&P advanced 36.32 points, or 1.2%, to end at 2,991.77, after briefly breaching the 3,000 level for the first time since March 5. The Nasdaq Composite finished at 9,340.22, up 15.63 points, or 0.2%.
What drove the stock market?
U.S.-China tensions flared up and fresh economic data showed how badly American businesses have been thrown off course by the coronavirus pandemic, but major stock indexes still marched higher.
"I think that's a reflection that investors are encouraged by news on COVID-19 vaccinations or therapeutics," Brian Nick, chief investment strategist at Nuveen, told MarketWatch. "That's being coupled with some recent indications that April might have been the bottom for global economic activity, meaning that the data is bad, but not as bad as April's data."
The Federal Reserve reported Wednesday that economic activity through May 18 fell sharply (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/feds-beige-book-says-businesses-are-pessimistic-about-pace-of-a-recovery-2020-05-27) in most of its 12 districts, amid mass unemployment and challenges in bringing employees back to work during the pandemic, as workers feared for their health, faced limited access to child care and received "generous unemployment benefits," according to the central bank's latest "Beige Book" report.
Meanwhile, New York Federal Reserve Bank President John Williams (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-05-27/williams-says-fed-thinking-very-hard-about-yield-curve-control) said the central bank was thinking hard about the possibility of targeting bond yields to keep U.S. borrowing costs low. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard also said policy makers should consider incentives to get workers back to their jobs, rather than expanding unemployment pay, as the recovery takes hold.
See: Stock-market bull who called the coronavirus relief rally now sees S&P 500 at 3,250 by August (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/stock-market-bull-who-called-the-coronavirus-relief-rally-now-sees-sp-500-at-3250-by-august-2020-05-27)
In other news, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday officially determined that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/secretary-pompeo-declares-hong-kong-no-longer-autonomous-from-china-setting-stage-for-possible-sanctions-2020-05-27) from China, a move that could revoke the city's two decades of U.S. economic privileges (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hongkong-protests/pompeo-says-hong-kong-no-longer-warrants-pre-1997-treatment-idUSKBN233053) and fray economic ties between the two superpowers.
Read: Revoking Hong Kong's special status is Trump's 'nuclear option' that could trigger irrevocable U.S.-China split, analysts warn (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/revoking-hong-kongs-special-status-is-trumps-nuclear-option-that-could-trigger-irrevocable-us-china-split-analysts-warn-2020-05-27)
President Donald Trump said Tuesday he plans to make an announcement by the end of the week regarding China's efforts to impose new security laws that would undercut Hong Kong's autonomy (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-likely-to-sanction-china-if-hong-kong-law-is-passed-top-trump-aide-says-2020-05-24). And China's Foreign Ministry said (https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3086375/china-vows-hit-back-us-over-any-action-hong-kong-national?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=share_widget&utm_campaign=3086375) on Wednesday it would strike back at the U.S. if it took any action over the security laws.
Lawmakers in Washington also are pushing ahead with legislation that would require all companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges to submit to audits reviewable by the U.S. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board -- a move that could force a number of Chinese companies to delist.
Fears about being denied access to American stock exchanges, and their deep wells of funding, may encourage more Chinese companies to consider Hong Kong as an alternative to New York for new listings, despite the geopolitical risks around the financial hub. Online gaming company NetEase Inc.(NTES) and e-commerce retailer JD.com Inc.(JD) were pushing forward with plans to sell shares in Hong Kong, the Wall Street Journal reported (https://www.wsj.com/articles/two-chinese-tech-firms-prepare-hong-kong-listings-as-u-s-pressure-rises-11590583842).
(https://www.wsj.com/articles/two-chinese-tech-firms-prepare-hong-kong-listings-as-u-s-pressure-rises-11590583842)"I don't know how you plan for that kind of black swan event, only because somebody's trying to be re-elected on a platform of being tough on the Chinese. It's political risk to an nth degree," said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at SlateStone Wealth LLC, in an interview, regarding the prospect of Chinese companies being forced to delist from U.S. exchanges.
Need to Know: Amazon and other stay-at-home stocks are starting to stall. They may hold the key to the market, strategist says (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/amazon-and-other-stay-at-home-stocks-are-starting-to-stall-they-may-hold-the-key-to-the-market-strategist-says-2020-05-27).
The stock market's recent buoyancy has been fueled by the gradual rollback of lockdown measures across the U.S. and much of Europe, which were imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, analysts said. Major monetary and fiscal stimulus efforts by central banks and governments also served to underpin equities.
Equities still may be reflecting optimism around the reopening of U.S. states, with technology stocks coming under some pressure and bank stocks rebounding. The S&P 500 Information Technology Sector closed down 0.1%, while financial shares rose 3.3%.
"What you're seeing is a rotation out of what's really performed well during the coronavirus shutdown of the economy, and the shift into areas in the market that have really lagged during the shutdown," said Pavlik.
Which companies were in focus?
How did other markets trade?
In global equities, the Stoxx Europe 600 index (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-rise-amid-investor-hopes-for-stimulus-package-2020-05-27) finished 0.2% higher on the eurozone stimulus proposal. While in Asia, the Nikkei rose 0.7%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed 0.4% lower.
The 10-year Treasury note yield (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/treasury-yields-rise-on-optimism-about-economic-recovery-eu-and-japan-fiscal-stimulus-2020-05-27) fell 2 basis points to 0.677%. Bond prices move in the opposite direction of yields.
The greenback strengthened modestly against its major rivals, with the ICE U.S. Dollar index up 0.1%.
West Texas Intermediate crude futures for July delivery (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-rally-stalls-as-russia-weighs-easing-supply-cuts-in-july-2020-05-27) fell $1.54 cents, or 4.5%, to settle at $32.81 a barrel. June gold futures (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/gold-slides-below-1700-an-ounce-as-stock-market-rally-dulls-haven-appeal-2020-05-27) lost $1.40 cents, or 0.08%, to end at $1,701.60 an ounce, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
William Watts contributed reporting
-Joy Wiltermuth; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 27, 2020 16:44 ET (20:44 GMT)
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