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Stocks end flat, Gilead report raises doubts

People who lost their jobs wait in line to file for unemployment following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at an Arkansas Workforce Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas, April 6, 2020.

Nick Oxford | Reuters

Stocks finished Thursday’s session mostly unchanged after data showed another 4.4 million Americans filed for jobless claims last week and a report said that Gilead’s potential Covid-19 drug flopped in a trial in China. Including Thursday’s moves, the major equity averages are on track for week-to-date losses due to a steep sell-off earlier this week triggered by an unprecedented oil rout. Here’s what happened: 

4:05 pm: Stocks end flat after Gilead report hamstrings rally

The major U.S. stock indexes ended Thursday largely unchanged after a report that Gilead’s potential Covid-19 treatment had flopped in China hamstrung the S&P 500’s morning rally. The Dow finished the day up 39.44 points, or 0.17%, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite both fell less than 0.1%. UnitedHealth led the Dow higher with a 3% rally while McDonald’s shaved off 30.4 points. Energy led the S&P 500 higher amid a near-20% jump in crude prices. — Franck

3:04 pm: Oil rallies more than 40% in two days as it comes back from record lows

Oil jumped nearly 20% on Thursday, accelerating its recent rally as the Street eyed continued production cuts and rising U.S.-Iranian tensions.West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, rose 19.7%, or $2.72, to settle at $16.50 per barrel. WTI did close off the highest level of the day, however, after hitting $18.26 in mid-morning trading. Brent crude, the international benchmark, gained 96 cents, or 4.7%, to settle at $21.33.On Wednesday, WTI jumped 19.1% — one of its best days on record. In just two days, from Tuesday’s settle of $11.57 to Thursday’s settle WTI has gained 42.6%. Given oil’s more than 70% decline this year a smaller gain, of course, now accounts for a much larger percentage move. — Stevens

2:59 pm: Final hour of trading: Stocks head for back-to-back gains in wild session

Stocks were up broadly in volatile trading as a Financial Times report raised concern over the effectiveness of a Gilead Sciences drug in treating the coronavirus. The Dow was up 219 points, or 0.9%, with about one hour left in the trading session. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.7% each. The Financial Times said — citing documents accidentally published by the World Health Organization — that Gilead Sciences’ drug remdesivir did not improve patients’ condition. Gilead took issue with the report, saying: “Because this study was terminated early due to low enrollment, it was underpowered to enable statistically meaningful conclusions.”  The S&P 500 and Nasdaq briefly went negative amid the conflicting reports. —Imbert

2:55 pm: Cramer says wait and see more rigorous U.S. studies on Gilead drug

CNBC’s Jim Cramer expressed his skepticism towards the Chinese clinical trial that showed Gilead’s antiviral drug for coronavirus performed poorly. He advised investors to wait and see results from the U.S. studies before writing the drug off. “I say wait until the American studies come out,” Cramer said in a tweet on Thursday. “University of Chicago study is a lot more rigorous. I would stick with that. You don’t have to believe it..But this is the third time the Chinese have said the drug doesn’t work.” The Financial Times earlier reported Gilead’s remdesivir flopped in a Chinese clinical trial. —Li

2:40 pm: Fed announces greater transparency for CARES lending programs

In an effort to provide greater transparency around business loans issued through the CARES Act, the Federal Reserve announced it will provide detailed information on who gets the money. Monthly releases will include names and details of participants in each facility, the amounts borrowed and interest charged, and costs, revenues and fees for each program. “The Federal Reserve is committed to transparency and accountability by providing the
public and Congress detailed information about our actions to support the economy during this difficult time,” Chair Jerome H. Powell said in a statement. Controversy erupted earlier this week when it was revealed that multiple publicly traded companies had received funding through loan programs intended for small businesses. — Cox

2:28 pm: Invesco plunges 19% after earnings miss, dividend cut 

Shares of Invesco tanked 19% after the asset manager reported disappointing quarterly results. Invesco earned 34 cents in the first quarter, missing analysts’ estimate of 52 cents, according to FactSet. Invesco also announced a quarterly cash dividend of 15.5 cents, down 50% from the prior payout.—Li

2:15 pm: Short sellers make nearly $300 million betting against retail investors’ favorite oil fund

As smaller investors pile into the risky and troubled United States Oil Fund, hedge funds are taking the other side of that trade and making a lot of money. As the fund, which trades under the ticker USO, plunged 75% in the last two months, those who bet against it by short selling pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars. According to data from S3 Partners, from Feb. 27 to April 21 “short sellers went into overdrive.” The firm said that over the two-month period short sellers tripled their positions, ultimately pocketing around $286 million for a 110% return through Tuesday. As crude oil began its historic tumble that sent prices plummeting below zero and into negative territory, bets against the USO accelerated. Over the last week, short positioning in the fund rose by 10.93%, S3 Partners’ data showed. – Stevens 

1:15 pm: Stocks rebound after Gilead cites potential benefit in antiviral drug

Stocks recovered its losses swiftly after Gilead said that its antiviral drug aiming to treat the coronavirus may still benefit patients. The WHO said in a document published accidentally that the drug performed poorly in a Chinese clinical test. Gilead said in a statement that the WHO document had “inappropriate characterizations of the study.” “As such, the study results are inconclusive, though trends in the data suggest a potential benefit for remdesivir, particularly among patients treated early in disease,” the company said. The Dow last traded 220 points higher, after almost turning negative following the report.—Li

12:59 pm: Gilead antiviral drug reportedly fails in first trial

Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir to treat the coronavirus showed disappointing results in a Chinese trial, the Financial Times reported, citing draft documents published accidentally by the World Health Organization. The paper said remdesivir did not improve patients’ condition or reduce the coronavirus pathogen in their bloodstream. —Li

12:48 pm: Stocks cut gains rapidly after report says Gilead antiviral drug trial disappoints

Stocks pared gains in a sudden move after the Financial Times reported Gilead’s antiviral drug flopped in a trial to treat Covid-19. The Dow is now up only 180 points, after rising 400 points at its session high. Gilead’s stock dropped 6%. – Li

12:40 pm: Zoom shares jump 10% after reporting massive user growth

Shares of Zoom popped more than 10% Thursday after the company announced its daily users grew 50% in the past month. More than 300 million people used Zoom’s videoconferencing software on April 22, CEO Eric Yuan announced in a webinar. Zoom announced on April 1 it had 200 million people using its software in March, after several stay-at-home mandates were implemented, from about 10 million in December. – Li, Bursztynsky

12:30 pm: Markets at midday: Stocks rally for a second day as oil extends rebound from historic lows

Around midday, the major averages traded sharply higher as crude prices followed through in their rebound from the historic lows reached earlier in the week. The Dow traded more than 300 points higher, or 1.5%. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also rallied more than 1% each. —Imbert

11:50 am: New York City’s top health official says city’s confirmed coronavirus cases are ‘tip of the iceberg’

Confirmed coronavirus cases in New York City are just “the tip of the iceberg,” New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said Thursday, adding that “close to a million” residents have probably been exposed to Covid-19. More than 147,000 people in New York City have so far tested positive for Covid-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.— William Feuer

11:09 am: US issues new guidance for small business loans to make it harder for public companies to get funds

10:58 am: Energy stocks roar back as oil prices surge

Shares of energy companies rallied in a big way on Thursday alongside oil’s rebound. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, rose 30%, or $4.18, to trade at $17.96 per barrel after cratering earlier in the week from a hit to demand driven by the coronavirus slowdown. Noble Energy and Apache Corporation surged 12% and 13%, respectively. Occidental Petroleum shot up more than 8%, Devon Energy soared more than 11%, and Exxon Mobil rose more than 5%. — Fitzgerald

10:53 am: Wall Street analysts see upside in stocks like Amazon ahead of earnings       

  • BMO upgraded Chipotle to market perform from underperform.
  • Goldman Sachs raised its price target on Amazon to $2,900 from $2,600.
  • Evercore ISI named Disney a top pick.
  • Raymond James downgraded Biogen to underperform from market perform.
  • Citi downgraded Biogen to sell from neutral.
  • Barclays downgraded L Brands to equal weight from overweight.
  • Craig-Hallum upgraded Seagate to buy from hold.
  • Morgan Stanley upgraded Gap to equal weight from underweight.

CNBC Pro subscribers can read more here. — Bloom

10:51 am: Stocks hit session highs, with Dow rising 400 points

The major averages followed oil prices higher on Thursday, hitting a session high in mid-morning trading. The Dow traded 400 points higher while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq advanced more than 1% each. U.S. crude prices soared about 30%. —Imbert

10:30 am: New home sales hit lowest level since 2013

10:02 am: CSX shares rise after earnings beat

Shares of railroad giant CSX gained more than 3% on Thursday after the company reported quarterly earnings that beat analyst expectations. CSX posted a profit of $1 per share, topping a Refinitiv estimate of 94 cents per share. CSX was among the best-performing stocks in the Dow Transports index, which rose more than 1.5%. —Imbert

9:55 am: S&P 500 average gains since March low are much bigger than losses

The S&P 500‘s rally from its late-March lows has happened in part because the index’s daily upside moves have been bigger than its downturns over the past month, data from Instinet shows. On average, the S&P 500 has averaged a gain of 3.6% since March 24 versus an average loss of 2.1%. “While obvious, the simplicity should not outweigh the importance,” said Instinet’s Frank Cappelleri. “This kind [of] scenario is what helps bullish patterns succeed and bearish patterns fade away … which is what we’ve seen happen over the last month of trading.” —Imbert

9:50 am: Cooperman says capitalism will likely be changed forever

9:45 am: Goldman raises Amazon target to Street high

9:31 am: Stocks open slightly higher

Stocks rose a tad at the open as investors digested data showing jobless claims totaled 4.4 million last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed about 70 points, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite traded about 0.4% higher. The major stock averages are still headed for weekly losses after a steep sell-off earlier this week on an unprecedented oil rout. — Li

9:05 am: Gap drops after warning it might run out of cash

Shares of Gap dropped 5% in premarket trading after the apparel company warned it might not have enough cash for operations as its stores remain temporarily shut because of the coronavirus pandemic. Gap said in a securities filing that it must take further actions to find liquidity over the next 12 months, such as additional job cuts and new debt financing. It added that beginning this month, it stopped paying rent on its temporarily shuttered stores. The stock has tumbled 60% this year — Li

8:38 am: The US economy has now erased all job gains since the Great Recession

It took only five weeks for the U.S. economy to wipe out all the job gains it added over the last 11 years.

Coronavirus-induced business closures throughout the U.S. has fueled the number of Americans applying for state unemployment benefits. Last week, new jobless claims totaled 4.427 million, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Combined with the four prior jobless claims reports, the number of Americans who have filed for unemployment over the previous five weeks is 26.45 million. That number exceeds the 22.442 million jobs added to nonfarm payrolls since November 2009, when the U.S. economy began to add jobs back to the economy after the Great Recession. —Franck

8:31 am: 4.4 million Americans filed for jobless claims last week

Another 4.427 million workers filed state unemployment claims in the week ended April 18, bringing the total number seeking benefits over the past five weeks to more than 26 million. There was little reaction from stocks and bonds following the jobs report.— Li

8:00 am: Oil jumps again, adding to comeback from historic lows

Oil rose for a second session on Thursday, rebounding from an unprecedented rout. West Texas Intermediate crude jumped 13.6% to trade at $15.68 per barrel. Brent crude traded $1.60, or 7.6%, higher at $21.94 per barrel. On Monday, the WTI contract for May delivery plunged below zero to trade in negative territory for the first time in history.— Li

7:42 am: Target sees ‘Cyber Monday’-sized online sales boom

Target CEO Brian Cornell said Thursday the retailer has benefited from a surge in online shopping, but warned it will have lower profits this quarter due to higher costs. Cornell said the online trend has worked in the discount retailer’s favor, and it expects to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic having gained market share. Since its fiscal first quarter began Feb. 2, Target’s same-store sales have risen more than 7%. So far in April, comparable digital sales have increased by more than 275% from a year ago.

Despite the strong comparable and digital sales, Target’s stock is down 5% in premarket trading.— Repko, Fitzgerald

7:35 am: Another 4.3 million workers expected to have filed unemployment claims

7:30 am: Stock futures flat ahead of weekly jobless claims

—CNBC’s Jeff Cox, Pippa Stevens, Jessica BursztynskyMichael Bloom, Fred Imbert, Thomas Franck, Patti Domm, Melissa Repko contributed reporting.

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