Stocks sink as over 30 million Americans file for unemployment

US stocks slid Thursday as Wall Street winced at new data showing the coronavirus crisis has put more than 30 million Americans out of work in just six weeks.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped as much as 378.26 points, or 1.5 percent, to 24,255.60 in early trading after the US Department of Labor said 3.8 million more workers sought unemployment benefits last week. That outpaced economists’ expectations for 3.5 million initial jobless claims.

The S&P 500 also took an early dip as large as 1.2 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq was trading roughly flat as of 9:55 a.m. after dropping 0.6 percent despite encouraging earnings reports from Twitter, Microsoft and Facebook.

Investors had to digest some dismal quarterly reports from major companies that have taken a beating from the pandemic. Oil giant Shell cut its dividend for the first time since World War II amid plunging demand for fuel, while American Airlines reported a $2.2 billion net loss for the first quarter.

Wall Street was nevertheless poised to post solid gains for April following a brutal downturn in March, with the S&P on pace for its best month since 1974. Optimism about states reopening their economies and hopes for a coronavirus treatment have lifted investors’ spirits in recent weeks.

The Dow was up roughly 12.4 percent for the month through Wednesday’s close, while the S&P had risen 13.7 percent and the Nasdaq had gained 11.7 percent.

“The normal caution has been replaced by an unshakable belief that bad news is old news and good news is a buying opportunity,” Craig Erlam, senior currency analyst at OANDA, said in a commentary. “There’s a lot of pain ahead and you’d never guess that from these markets.”

With Post wires

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