Bank stocks helped push U.S. markets higher as investors grappled with renewed tensions with China and lingering economic weakness, plus more in today’s Closing Bell on Money & Markets.

The Top Story

Stock markets surged late as Wall Street received a better-than-expected jobs report, but faced renewed tensions between the U.S. and China.

Comments by President Donald Trump late Wednesday blamed China for the coronavirus outbreak and revived trade war fears, even as mandated lockdowns continue to damage the economy.

That damage was in evidence in a report from the U.S. Department of Labor, which showed just under 3 million new jobless claims last week, pushing the seven-week tally well over 36 million.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, seven were higher, led by financial and energy stocks.

The first-quarter earnings season is on the final stretch, with 451 of the companies in the S&P 500 having reported. Of those, 66.7% have beaten consensus, according to Refinitiv data.

In aggregate, earnings for the first three months of the year are seen falling by 12.1% year over year, a stark reversal from the 6.3% annual growth seen on Jan. 1.

The Dow Jones rose 1.62%. The S&P 500 rose 1.15% and the Nasdaq climbed 0.91%.

Stock Market Update: Closing Bell*

S&P 500: 2,852 (+1.15%)
DOW: 23,625 (+1.62%)
NASDAQ: 8,943 (+0.91%)
GOLD: $1,738.10 (+1.26%)
BITCOIN: $9,660.26 (+3.39%)
U.S. 10-YEAR YIELD: 0.623% (-0.028%)

*- as of 4:55 p.m.

A Big Win

In this morning’s Opening Bell, we told you about Intelsat SA (NYSE: I) confirming it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in hopes of still being able to take part in the government’s 5G wireless infrastructure build-out. Shares of Intelsat dropped 36.6%.

We also talked about SmileDirectClub Inc. (Nasdaq: SDC) reporting weak earnings for the first quarter. The company lost $107 million, or $0.28 per share in the first three months of the year. Shares of SmileDirectClub were down 9.3%.

Finally, we mentioned French pharmaceutical company, Sanofi SA (Nasdaq: SNY). The company’s CEO got into hot water after suggesting the U.S. would likely receive the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines if approved. Sanofi shares fell 1.3%.

Golden Nuggets

Precious metals pushed higher on stronger demand for the U.S. dollar and increased interest in safe havens.

Gold futures pushed 1.3% higher to $1,738.10 an ounce. Silver futures were up 3.3% to trade at $16.19 an ounce.

Platinum moved up 1.6% to $781.90 an ounce, while palladium futures jumped 0.9% to trade at $1,807.10 an ounce.

Editor’s note: Listen to the latest episode of The Bull & The Bear podcast, where I talk with Banyan Hill Publishing’s Matt Badiali about the state of the gold market.

Cannabis Corner

Senate Republicans are pushing back against a provision in the House’s latest coronavirus relief package.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the floor Thursday to protest against a measure that would protect banks that service cannabis businesses from being penalized by federal regulators, according to Marijuana Moment.

The provision is part of a $3 trillion stimulus package that is in addition to the $2.2 trillion package already passed by Congress.

Jobless Rate Could Peak at 25%, JPMorgan Analysts Suggest

JPMorgan & Chase Co. (NYSE: JPM) analysts believe the U.S. unemployment rate could top 25% before it gets better, according to a report from Bloomberg.

On Thursday, a Department of Labor report found that 2.9 million more Americans filed for jobless benefits last week.

If analysts are correct, the spike in unemployment would be as high as it was during the Great Depression.

Today’s Big Winners

S&P 500: Cintas Corp. (Nasdaq: CTAS) +14.7%

Nasdaq: KLA Corp. (Nasdaq: KLAC) +7.7%

Dow: American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP) +7.4%

Today’s Big Losers

S&P 500: Coty Inc. (NYSE: COTY) -8.2%

Nasdaq: Biomarin Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq: BMRN) -3%

Dow: 3M Co. (NYSE: MMM) -0.1%

Check back for the most important news and numbers each day after the Closing Bell, only on Money & Markets