US STOCKS- Wall St gains as U.S. extends shutdown to limit virus spread

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March 30, 2020
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US STOCKS- Wall St gains as U.S. extends shutdown to limit virus spread

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* Abbott top gainer among S&P 500 components

* Cruise operators slump after brokerage cuts PTs

* Healthcare sector among biggest boosts

* Indexes up: Dow 2.05%, S&P 2.27%, Nasdaq 2.64% (Updates to late morning)

By Uday Sampath Kumar and Medha Singh

March 30 (Reuters) – U.S. stocks rose on Monday as President Donald Trump followed last week’s massive fiscal stimulus package by extending his stay-at-home guidelines, leaving investors hopeful the economic impact of the coronavirus could still be contained.

A record $2.2 trillion in aid and policy easing from the Federal Reserve helped equities recover some of their losses last week, with the S&P 500 posting its biggest weekly percentage gain in over a decade and the Dow Jones its best since 1938.

That is convincing few that the worst of the most dramatic sell-off in a decade is over, and Wall Street’s fear gauge , which predicts future volatility, is still running as high as it has been since the 2008 financial crisis.

However, the prospect of more government stimulus has given investors something to hold on to as they wait for signs of economic relief from the pandemic. All three main indexes rose by more than 2% on Monday. “It’s a positive that precautionary measures are being extended,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.

“The market is probably somewhat relieved over that because at least we’ll be able to see, from the virus perspective, when we can reach a point of being able to get back into growth mode.”

Even taking last week’s bounce into account, the severity of the spread of the virus and the likelihood of a deep global recession have so-far knocked $7 trillion off the value of S&P 500 companies.

The volatility has been extraordinary and sustained, with the Dow gaining nearly 2,000 points in one session, only to fall almost 3,000 points the next day.

“Until we’ve got some evidence that can help deal with the virus, it’s probably more choppy markets ahead,” said Noah Hamman, chief executive office of AdvisorShares in Bethesda, Maryland.

JPMorgan Chase & Co said on Saturday it expected real U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) to fall 10% in the first quarter and plunge 25% in the second quarter.

All of the major S&P sectors, however, were higher with technology stocks providing the biggest boost.

The healthcare sector was the second-biggest support to the benchmark index as progress on coronavirus vaccines and tests being developed by Johnson & Johnson and Abbott Laboratories lifted their shares by about 6.7% and 7.3%, respectively.

At 11:23 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 444.16 points, or 2.05%, at 22,080.94, the S&P 500 was up 57.74 points, or 2.27%, at 2,599.21 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 198.16 points, or 2.64%, at 7,700.54.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd and Carnival Corp were the top decliners after Berenberg slashed its price targets on cruise operators by about a third.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.12-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.51-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded one new 52-week high and two new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded five new highs and 19 new lows. (Reporting by Uday Sampath and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Sagarika Jasinghani and Anil D’Silva)