Market Snapshot: Dow tries for back-to-back gains as investors watch for further traction on coronavirus stimulus package

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U.S. stock indexes were indicated higher Friday, with stocks attempting to register their first back-to-back gains in months as investors weighed the acceleration of the global death toll due to COVID-19 against efforts by governments and central banks to contain the economic impact of the pandemic.

How are major benchmarks performing?

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average YMH20, +1.47% were up 513 points, or 2.6%, at 20,388, while those for the S&P 500 index ESH20, +1.07% were at 2,444, rising 54.90 points, or 2.3%. Meanwhile, Nasdaq-100 futures NQH20, +2.42% were up 244.75 points to reach 7,518.25, a rise of 3.3%, after hitting a 5% daily limit for index futures earlier in the session.

On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.95% gained 188.27 points, or 1%, to 20,081.19. The S&P 500 SPX, +0.47% rose 0.5%, or 11.29 points, to close at 2,409.39. The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +2.30% advanced 160.73 points, or 2.3% to end the session at 7,150.58.

For the week, the Dow is on track for a 13.4% weekly decline, the S&P 500 was set to fall 11.13% on the week, while the Nasdaq was looking at a 9.2% weekly drop, as of Thursday’s close.

What’s driving the market?

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., were hurrying to assemble a second bailout package to help lessen the current and anticipated economic pain from the pandemic that has claimed more than 10,000 lives around the world.

“It would appear all the various measures taken by governments and central banks recently is finally calming the markets down,” wrote David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets U.K., in daily research note.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican lawmaker representing Kentucky, on Thursday introduced a stimulus package that could top $1 trillion and would include direct payments of $1,200 for individuals and with married couples eligible to for $2,400, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The proposal comes as reports show that jobless claims could soar to more than 2 million by next week, according to a research report analysts at Goldman Sachs.

A Thursday a report on claims from those seeking unemployment benefits showed that 281,000 Americans filed for unemployment insurance for the first time in the March 14 week, the highest since 2017.

Attempts to soften the blow to businesses and individuals also come as California on Thursday ordered its roughly 40 million residents to remain at home to help limit the spread of the pathogen. California Gov. Gavin Newsom estimated that more than half of the Golden State’s residents will be infected by COVID-19 over an eight-week period.

Looking ahead, investors await a report on U.S. existing home sales, which are expected to take a hit due to expanding lock downs across the nation, even though the Federal Reserve’s policy interest rate is at its lowest level since the 2008 financial crisis, at a range between 0% and 0.25%.

See: Mortgage rates surge to highest level since January even though the Fed just brought interest rates to 0%

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