Stock rally gains steam in the final hour of trading, Dow now up 1,300 points

Stocks jumped on Monday, rebounding from sharp losses in the previous week, as the number of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. appeared to slow down. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded 1,186 points higher, or more than 5%. The S&P 500 gained 5.4% while the Nasdaq Composite advanced 5.5%.

Boeing gained more than 15% to lead the Dow higher. Raytheon Technologies, American Express and Visa rose more than 8% each. The S&P 500 was led by the utilities, materials and tech sectors, all of which traded more than 6% higher. Retail stocks such as Nordstrom, Kohl’s and Macy’s also rose sharply. 

Investors were encouraged by data that shows a slowing in the number of daily U.S. coronavirus cases, although it is still early to determine a lasting trend. There were about 30,000 new cases on Thursday, 32,100 cases on Friday, 33, 260 cases on Saturday, and then a slowing to just 28,200 new cases Sunday, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins.

The Trump administration also noted on Sunday there are signs of stabilization in hospital rates, helping to lift Wall Street sentiment on Monday. Meanwhile, New York State reported 594 new coronavirus deaths on Sunday, fewer than 630 on Saturday, marking the first daily decline in coronavirus-related deaths.

“Incoming data suggests NY state might peak sooner than Cuomo’s optimistic case,” Tom Lee, head of research at Fundstrat, said in a note to clients. “With better visibility on the healthcare crisis in the US, particularly, on a potential to model a national peak, we believe buyers are now taking control.”

Slowing death rates in Europe also offered up some hope that the U.S would be nearing its peak soon as well and that social distancing measures are working.

Last week, the major averages posted their third weekly decline in four. The Dow slid 2.7% while the S&P 500 lost 2.1%. The Nasdaq Composite closed last week down 1.7%. Stocks are also deep in bear-market territory as concerns over the coronavirus outbreak have virtually shut down the global economy and have dampened sentiment around corporate profits. 

“I am beginning to get optimistic,” said Pershing Square’s Bill Ackman in a tweet on Sunday. “Cases appear to be peaking in NY. Almost the entire country is in shutdown.”

Some optimism has helped to infuse stability in the markets. A marked slowing increase in death rates and new infections in the hardest-hit countries, such as Italy and Spain, has sparked some positive momentum in global equities, with Europe’s Stoxx 600 jumping 3.7%.

The S&P 500 has also bounced more than 18% from a low set on March 23. The Dow has rebounded over 20% since then. 

However, the U.S. is by far the country with the most cases at over 330,000. On Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump warned, “there will be a lot of death,” noting the U.S. faces its “toughest week” in its fight against the virus.

“If we are fortunate to see an effective treatment there will be plenty of capital gains opportunities. For me capital preservation is more important than capital gains,” said March Chaikin, CEO of Chaikin Analytics. “Use sharp bear market rallies, like we saw last week, to raise sufficient cash to enable you to withstand further declines without panicking.”

Oil prices

In oil markets, prices were still down after a key meeting got postponed. West Texas Intermediate futures fell 8% to $26.08 per barrel. 

The meeting between OPEC and Russia was scheduled for Monday, but sources familiar with the matter told CNBC it will “likely” take place Thursday. The delay comes after Trump told CNBC last week he expected both countries to cut production by up to 15 million barrels.

Trump’s comments helped U.S. crude post its biggest-ever weekly gain. West Texas Intermediate futures rallied 12% last week. WTI also jumped 24% on Thursday for its best day on record, lifting equity prices that day as concern about financial and job losses in the energy sector eased.

Crude has taken a beating this year as Saudi Arabia-led OPEC and Russia failed to reach a deal on production cuts while the global spread of the coronavirus dampens the demand outlook for oil. Year to date, WTI has lost more than half of its value.

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CNBC’s Eustance Huang contributed to this report.

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