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Stocks rally worldwide on hopes for coming economic recovery

But trading remains skittish as worsening coronavirus trends in several hotspots rattle investors.

NEW YORK — Stocks are rallying worldwide June 16, and Wall Street is heading for its third straight gain after U.S. retail sales rebounded sharply last month.

The data bolstered hopes that the economy can pull out of its recession relatively quickly, and the S&P 500 was up 2 percent. But trading remains very skittish as worsening coronavirus trends in several hotspots around the world rattle investors. The S&P 500 shot to an early 2.8 percent gain, lost nearly all of it at one point and then rallied back.

A sign for a Wall Street building is shown on June 16. Stocks are rising sharply in early trading on Wall Street after retail sales in the U.S. soared by a record 17.7 percent from April to May, double what economists were expecting and a welcome sign that spending is partially rebounding after the devastating coronavirus shutdowns. [MARK LENNIHAN | AP]

The tenuous rise for the U.S. market followed up on stronger gains for European and Asian stocks. Treasury yields also climbed in another sign of improving optimism, but trading there was likewise volatile.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 566 points, or 2.2 percent, at 26,330, as of 2 p.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was up 1.8 percent.

"The markets have been looking forward to the economy reopening, and that's a large part of the story for the next few months," said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Baird.

"My feeling is that while reopenings and things get better, it won't be without some backsteps, and I think it'll be a rocky few months more for the markets."

Retail sales jumped 17.7 percent from April to May, more than double economists’ expectations, to retrace some of their record-setting plunges in March and April as businesses reopened across the country. It follows earlier reports that the U.S. job market unexpectedly strengthened last month and gives more credence to investor expectations that the worst of the downturn may have already passed.

A security guard walks by a stock ticker on the front door of the New York Stock Exchange on June 16. Stocks are rising sharply in early trading on Wall Street after retail sales in the U.S. soared by a record 17.7 percent from April to May. [MARK LENNIHAN | AP]

Economists at IHS Markit said this could be the shortest recession on record for the United States, perhaps just a couple months.

Among other encouraging signs spurring markets worldwide: Researchers in England said they have the first evidence that a drug can improve survival from COVID-19, one that is already widely available and cheap. Analysts also cited a report from Bloomberg News that the White House is preparing a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure plan, but any such proposal is likely to face huge challenges about how to pay for the improvements.

Underpinning all of it is continued aid coming from central banks, which have repeatedly come to the economy’s rescue. The Federal Reserve helped turn markets around on June 15 after it said it will buy individual corporate bonds as part of a previously announced program to support lending markets.

Still, caution continues to run through markets after the remarkable run for stocks in recent months. A record number of fund managers in Bank of America’s monthly survey say the stock market is overvalued following its nearly 40 percent surge since late March.

The rally has been showing some cracks recently as investors worry that a possible resurgence of infections could push governments to reinstate lockdown measures to slow the spread of the virus. Even if the stay-at-home orders don't come back, worried consumers and businesses could pull back on their spending.

Analysts on June 16 cited discouraging trends in Florida and Texas. China also locked down a third neighborhood in Beijing to contain a new outbreak that has infected more than 100 people after the country appeared to have largely contained the virus since it first appeared there late last year.

Skepticism has been high about the stock market since it began coming back from its plunge of nearly 34 percent on worries about the severe, sudden recession created by the coronavirus outbreak. It’s now down less than 8 percent.

Immense, unprecedented aid from the Fed and Capitol Hill helped halt the declines. More recently, investors have been pushing up shares of companies that would benefit from a reopening economy on expectations that activity can rebound as governments relax shutdown restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the virus.

Such stocks were again leading the market on June 16. Industrial stocks were generally strong, as were producers of raw materials. Smaller stocks also rose more than the rest of the market, which often happens when investors are getting more optimistic about the economy. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks rose 2.7 percent.

Nordstrom jumped 14.6 percent for one of the biggest gains in the S&P 500, leading a group of retailers that stand to benefit if shoppers return to stores.

Construction scaffolding covers a portion of Wall Street next to the New York Stock Exchange on June 16. Stocks are rising sharply in early trading on Wall Street, a welcome sign that spending is partially rebounding after the devastating coronavirus shutdowns. [MARK LENNIHAN | AP]

The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 0.75 percent from 0.70 percent late June 15, after earlier climbing as high as 0.78 percent. It tends to move with investors’ expectations for the economy and inflation.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 4.9 percent, South Korea’s Kospi surged 5.3 percent and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 2.4 percent. In Europe, Germany’s DAX returned 3.4 percent, France’s CAC 40 rose 2.8 percent and the FTSE 100 in London added 2.9 percent.

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