US stocks managed to post gains after recent steep losses as policymakers around the world took further emergency actions to try to help financial markets cope with deep coronavirus-driven economic damage.
Nasdaq outperformed other major indexes, ending 2.3 per cent higher, fuelled by gains in Amazon.com, Microsoft and Facebook.
The Federal Reserve opened swap lines with central banks in nine new countries to ensure the world’s dollar-dependent financial system continued to function.
It was the latest in a host of steps taken by the US central bank over the last two weeks, including cutting borrowing costs to near zero and providing billions of dollars more for cheap credit.
The European Central Bank pledged late on Wednesday to buy 750 billion euros ($820 billion) in sovereign debt through 2020.
President Donald Trump, in another now-regular update for Americans hunkered down in their homes, called on US health regulators to expedite potential therapies aimed at treating COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, while the White House sounded upbeat on the chances of passage of hundreds of billions of dollars of aid in Congress.
Even with the emergency moves, analysts in a Reuters poll gave a median 80 per cent chance of a US recession this year.
The recent sharp market volatility continued, with the S&P 500 index falling as much as 3.3 per cent during the session.
And Thursday’s gains did little to restore the markets after the pounding stocks have suffered in the past month. The Dow Jones Industrial Average erased virtually the last of its gains under Trump’s presidency on Wednesday.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 188.27 points, or 0.95 per cent, to 20,087.19, the S&P 500 gained 11.29 points, or 0.47 per cent, to 2,409.39 and the Nasdaq Composite added 160.73 points, or 2.3 per cent, to 7,150.58.
Helping the day’s sentiment, US crude oil prices spiked by 25 per cent in their largest single-day gain on record, while the S&P 500 energy index rose 6.8 per cent, leading gains among S&P 500 sectors.
Ford Motor Co was the latest major US corporation to bolster its cash reserves to ride out the virus impact, drawing down more than $15 billion from existing credit lines. Ford shares ended down 0.7 per cent.
The virus’ impact on jobs was also in focus as official data showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits surged to a 2-1/2-year high last week as companies in the services sector laid off workers because of the pandemic.
Late on Wednesday, New York Stock Exchange owner Intercontinental Exchange Inc said the market would temporarily close its trading floors and move fully to electronic trading starting next week.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.64-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 3.21-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.
The S&P 500 posted three new 52-week highs and 94 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 13 new highs and 569 new lows.
Volume on US exchanges was 17.08 billion shares, compared to the 15 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.