Stocks jump on banking M&A talk, coronavirus vaccine progress

U.S. equity markets curbed losses and finished at session highs as financials led on renewed M&A speculation and comments from President Trump signaled the U.S. could have a coronavirus vaccine by year-end.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which experienced a swing of more than 700 points, closed up 377 points, or 1.62 percent. The broader S&P 500 rose 1.15 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 0.91 percent.

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Financials rallied after FOX Business' Charlie Gasparino reported Goldman Sachs renewed its interest in a possible bank acquisition, which could include Wells Fargo, PNC or U.S. Bancorp. The companies declined to comment on the report.

Those headlines helped outweigh more negative news on the economic front after new government data showed nearly 3 million more Americans lost work last week.

Initial jobless claims for the week ended May 9 totaled 2.98 million, according to the Labor Department. While lower than the previous week's total of 3.84 million, the new filings brought the total number of Americans who have lost work over eight weeks of stay-at-home measures to 36.5 million, the highest since the Great Depression.

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A gradual rollback of those measures continued Thursday, with California allowing 17 counties to reopen malls, dine-in restaurants and schools, with modifications. Elsewhere, Georgia said summer day camps that meet certain criteria may operate.

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Looking at stocks, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings lost $1.9 billion, or an adjusted 99 cents a share, as business was brought to a standstill because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The cruise line said it has enough cash to withstand 18 months of voyage suspensions.

Dow component Cisco Systems reported earnings and revenue that outpaced Wall Street estimates, boosted by demand for work-from home tools.

Fellow Dow member 3M said sales fell 11 percent year-over-year in April as only its health care business saw gains.

Meanwhile, Tyson Foods will slash prices on some beef products it sells to restaurants and supermarkets by up to 30 percent for the rest of the week, helping cattle producers work through a backlog of supply.

Starbucks has asked a number of landlords for a year of rent relief for corporate-owned stores due to disruptions caused by COVID-19, the Seattle Times reported.

Elsewhere, Netflix raced to a record high and General Electric shares remained under pressure after falling to a 29-year low Wednesday amid concerns over the long-term health of the airline industry. The conglomerate is one of the largest manufactures of jet engines and components.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil climbed nearly 9 percent to $27.56 a barrel, and gold spiked 1.41 percent to $1,738 an ounce.

U.S. Treasurys rallied, pushing the yield on the 10-year note down to 0.617 percent.

European markets were lower across the board, with Britain’s FTSE dropping  2.75 percent, France’s CAC off 1.65 percent and Germany’s DAX sliding 1.95 percent.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei lost 1.74 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slid 1.45 percent and China’s Shanghai Composite fell 0.96 percent.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. Get updates on this story from