Stocks rally in broad-based advance; jobless claims surge to record high
The S&P 500 is up 4.6%, rallying for the third straight day in a broad-based advance after the Senate approved its stimulus bill and jobless claims surged to a record high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 5.1%, the Nasdaq Composite is up 4.0%, and the Russell 2000 is up 5.6%.  Initial claims for the week ending March 21 increased by 3.001 million to 3.283 million, which is a startling figure that represents the dire situation many Americans are facing due to the coronavirus. The market already knew the situation was bad, but the thinking is that the report might convince the House to unanimously pass the stimulus bill tomorrow. If not, the bill will be delayed but likely still pass. Currently, all 11 S&P 500 sectors are sporting comfortable gains ranging from 3.3% (materials) to 7.4% (utilities). The leadership of the utilities sector might be attributed to the stability, and higher dividends, the sector provides at a time when Treasury yields are low and the economic outlook remains uncertain. In other stimulus news, Fed Chair Powell told NBC's "Today Show" that the Fed is not out of ammunition and will lend anyplace where credit is not flowing. China is implementing $344 billion of mainly fiscal measures to the economy, according to Reuters.Micron (MU 45.15, +2.65, +6.2%) leads the semiconductor stocks higher after the company provided upside quarterly results and in-line guidance. The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index is up 5.0%, bringing its weekly gain to 19.1%.   Henry Schein (HSIC 55.47, +5.44, +10.9%) is another notable gainer after the health care company announced the availability of an antibody rapid blood test that helps health care professionals make more informed decisions about COVID-19 treatments.U.S. Treasuries are up despite the bullish bias in stocks. The benchmark 10-yr yield is down three basis points to 0.80%. The U.S. Dollar Index is down 1.5% to 99.56. WTI crude, interestingly, is down 4.6% to $23.35/bbl. Reviewing today's economic data:Initial claims for the week ending March 21 increased by 3,001,000 to 3,283,000. That is the highest seasonally adjusted number for initial claims by many miles. The prior record was 695,000 in October 1982. Continuing claims for the week ending March 14 increased by 101,000 to 1,803,000, but that number will skyrocket next week as well.The key takeaway from the report is that it underscores for everyone how much worse the current economic situation is than anything else experienced in this modern age. It is a stark reflection that this time is different.The third estimate for Q4 GDP showed a 2.1% annualized rate of growth that was in-line with the second estimate and the Briefing.com consensus estimate. Similarly, the GDP Price Deflator was left unchanged at 1.3%, as expected.The key takeaway from the report is that it is inconsequential at this juncture. That would be the effective takeaway in normal times (we're less than a week away from the end of Q1), but things are no longer normal as the first quarter is ending with the U.S. economy in shutdown mode to help stop the spread of COVID-19.The advance goods trade deficit totaled $59.89 bln in February after a $65.9 bln deficit in January. Advance retail inventories decreased 0.3% in February after decreasing 0.1% in January. Advance wholesale inventories decreased 0.5% in February after decreasing 0.5% in January.