Market Snapshot: Dow retakes 26,000 level as jobs and services data show signs economy is close to bottoming-out

U.S. stocks added to their gains on Wednesday, a day after major equity benchmarks closed at their highest levels since early March, as labor-market and services data showed the pace of the economic damage wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic was slowing down.

How are benchmarks performing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average

advanced 380 points, or 1.5%, to 26,123, its highest since early March. The S&P 500

rose 35 points, or 1.1%, to 3,115. The Nasdaq Composite Index

rose 65 points, or 0.7%, to 9,673, less than 2% away from its all-time closing high of 9817.18.

On Tuesday, the Dow rose 267.63 points, or 1.1%, to end at 25,742.65, marking its highest close since March 6, according to Dow Jones Market Data. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 index rose 25.09 points, or 0.8%, closing at 3,080.82, its loftiest finish since March 4, and the Nasdaq advanced 56.33 points, or 0.6%, to finish at 9,608.37, representing its best closing level since Feb. 20.

What’s driving the market?

Markets have climbed a virtual wall of worry to head higher over the past several sessions, shrugging of social strife and violent demonstrations in major cities, testiness between the U.S. and China and the economic carnage wrought by a viral pandemic.

See: Amid disease, riots and rising U.S.-China tensions, the stock market keeps it cool

Stocks were seen getting a lift as data from Automatic Data Processing showed private-sector employers shed 2.76 million jobs in May, following a decrease of 20.2 million in April. Last month’s fall was much less than the 8.66 million job losses expected from economists polled by Econoday.

”In the context of the current environment, the status of private sector employment is better than many anticipated. In fact, with many businesses across the country reopening, labor watchers may optimistically be thinking that the worst is behind us,” wrote Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E*TRADE.

Analysts, however, noted the more closely watched Labor Department employment report will be released Friday. The ADP data are often not a reliable guide to official data.

“We’ve seen a lot, but the economic data released in this recession have been the strangest in history,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist for MUFG Securities, in a note.

In addition to labor-market data, the Institute for Supply Management said its main reading of the service sector’s health came in at 45.4 in May, above the consensus forecast of 44.7. Any reading below 50 represents a contraction in industrial activity.

Markets have largely overlooked a wave of protests across U.S. cities sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week — an unarmed black man who died in police custody. Protests that have at times turned violent have resulted in curfews imposed in a number of cities, including New York.

The current bout of civil unrest playing out in America has drawn comparisons to civil unrest in 1968, but BTIG analysts note that the weakened state of the economy due to the fallout from the viral outbreak makes the situation worse. “GDP growth in 1968 was 4.8%, 2020s GDP is forecast -5.8%,” they said.

Hope for success in businesses reopening has been credited with pushing stocks higher, but analysts say that an unprecedented dose of stimulus from the Federal Reserve has also provided a floor for assets considered risky.

Weekly data showed that the Fed’s balance sheet rose to $7.1 trillion as of last Wednesday, up from $7.04 trillion over the prior period. Meanwhile, the U.S. government has injected trillions of dollars more into small businesses and workers to help stem the hardship of store closures.

Read:Amid disease, riots and rising U.S.-China tensions, the stock market keeps it cool

Which stocks are in focus?
How are other assets trading?

Oil prices rebounded on Wednesday, with West Texas Intermediate crude for July delivery

gaining 22 cents, or 0.6%, at $37.01 a barrel.

In precious metals, August gold

fell $36.90, or 2.1%, to trade at $1,697.10 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange, looking to add to its 0.9% loss on Tuesday.

In global equities, the Stoxx Europe 600 index

traded 2.5% higher, while the FTSE 100 index

advanced 0.9%.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei

rose 1.3%, the China CSI 300

finished virtually unchanged and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index

rose 1.4%. South Korea’s Kospi index

gained 2.9% after the government proposed an extra budget worth $28.9 billion, to ease the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 10-year Treasury note yield

climbed 8 basis points to 1.315%. Bond prices move in the opposite direction of yields.

The greenback lost ground against its major rivals, with the ICE U.S. Dollar index

down about 0.3%.