Stock markets rally for a third day; loonie up against U.S. dollar

NEW YORK — Stocks marched higher for a third straight day Friday as a massive coronavirus relief bill gets closer to passing Congress and Wall Street took some historically bad unemployment figures in stride.

The S&P 500 rose 6.2%, bringing its three-day rally to 17.6%. The Dow industrials have risen an even steeper 21.3% since Monday.

Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, easily shattering the prior record set in 1982, as layoffs and business shutdowns sweep across the country.

Analysts said the market shot higher Thursday because Wall Street knew the bad news on unemployment was coming. The gains earlier this week came as Capitol Hill and the Federal Reserve promised an astonishing amount of aid for the economy and markets, hoping to support them as the outbreak causes more businesses to shut down by the day.

“There is no sugar coating these numbers — they are bad,” said Jamie Cox, managing partner for Harris Financial Group. “Markets have had several days to digest what everyone knew was coming; therefore, the market response to these numbers may differ than what people might expect.”

Despite the big gains, the S&P 500 remains 22% below its February high and analysts expect more dire economic headlines, and market turbulence, in the days ahead.

Companies are also expected to report discouraging results in just a few weeks as earnings season begins. Very few have dared to issue forecasts capturing how big a hit the virus will inflict on their profits.

Rising expectations that Congress would approve an unprecedented rescue package for the economy have driven stocks higher this week. Late Wednesday, the Senate unanimously approved the $2.2 trillion plan, which includes direct payments to U.S. households and aid to hard-hit industries. The House of Representatives is expected to approve it

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