By Mark DeCambre and Steve Goldstein
U.S. stocks snapped a two-day skid Thursday, with the Dow industrials producing the best percentage gain since early March, as investors looked past the spread of coronavirus and a fuzzy path for monetary policy and the U.S. economy.
Wall Street may be taking some solace from a report of a second case of the omicron variant from a Minnesota resident visiting New York—which was reported by Minnesota public health authorities —but who showed just mild symptoms.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -1.51% rose 617.75 points, or 1.8%, to 34,639.79, which marks the best percentage gain since March 5, 2021 and the best point gain since Nov. 9, 2020.
The S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -1.84% advanced 1.4%, or 64.06 points, to close at 4,577.10, notching its best day since Oct. 14.
The Nasdaq Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP -2.60% picked up a more modest 0.8%, or 127.27 points, to reach 15,381.32.
The Russell 2000 index /zigman2/quotes/210598147/delayed RUT -3.06% ended the session up 2.7%, or 58.91 points, to reach 2,206.33, a day after marking its first correction since June of 2020.
In an incredibly volatile session on Wednesday, the Dow ended 1.3%, or 462 points, lower to 34,022.04, as the Nasdaq Composite slumped 1.8%, or 284 points, to 15,254.05. The S&P 500 fell 1.2% to 4,513.04, and the small-cap Russell 2000 /zigman2/quotes/210598147/delayed RUT -3.06% slumped 2.3%, or 51 points, to 2,147.42.
What’s driving markets
Stocks finished higher for the first time in three sessions but for some bulls the downtrend may feel longer, amid a slide characterized at times by stomach-churning swings and white-knuckle climbs higher.
Investors have been on edge because the omicron-inspired jitters have resulted in some erosion of upward trend lines for the main stock benchmarks and bears wanted to see if another shoe would drop on Thursday to help solidify the downtrend.
“The bouncing in the markets due to incoming news has slowed, with markets led by cyclicals and the recovery trade,” wrote Rob Haworth, senior vice president and senior investment strategist, at U.S. Bank Wealth Management, in emailed comments to MarketWatch.
On Thursday, health officials confirmed another case, a Minnesota resident who had recently traveled to New York City for a convention, experienced mild symptoms and has since recovered. The new case makes it likely that further infections from omicron in the New York area.
“The hope is that omicron is more benign than expected and any shutdowns will be limited in time and scope,” the UBS strategist wrote.
As expected, President Joe Biden said that the U.S. was ramping up COVID-19 testing for travelers entering the country and said that he planned on extending a mask mandate on airplanes and other public transportation as part of a broad administration effort to combat new strain of coronavirus.
Thursday’s trading followed an ugly Wednesday that was precipitated by confirmation of the first U.S. omicron variant case, which sent the S&P 500 below its 50-day moving average for the first time since Oct. 13.
“It seems that investors’ main concern remains the uncertainty surrounding the omicron coronavirus variant and the implications any new restrictions could have to the global economy,” said Charalambos Pissouros, head of research at JFD Group.