Stocks soar as NYSE trading floor reopens from coronavirus shutdown

U.S. equity markets surged to their best levels in months as states continued to reopen and traders returned to the New York Stock Exchange for the first time since shutting down on March 23 to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied more than 600 points, or 2.45 percent, in the opening minutes of trading, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite were higher by 2.20 percent and 1.84 percent, respectively. The gains, which propelled both the S&P 500 and the Dow to their highest levels since March and the Nasdaq to its best level since February, come after all three of the major averages each advanced more than 3 percent last week.

At least five states are taking steps to ease lockdowns on Tuesday, with Michigan allowing retail businesses to open by appointment and Arkansas letting freestanding bars unlock their doors.

Meanwhile, about one-quarter of traders are back on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange after a two-month closure due to COVID-19. Those returning to the trading floor must wear masks, avoid taking public transportation, practice social distancing and are divided by Plexiglas. Traders also had to sign a waiver limiting the exchange’s COVID-19 liability.

Airlines soared as the number of travelers passing through Transportation Security Administration airport checkpoints hit 348,673 on Friday, the highest since March 22, and Spain said it would be opening its borders to tourists beginning July 1.

Drugmaker Novavax begins dosing for its Phase 1 clinical trial of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

Merck purchased privately held Austrian vaccine maker Themis Bioscience and said it would work with nonprofit IAVI to develop two separate COVID-19 vaccines.

Elsewhere, rental car company Hertz filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late Friday, and has several weeks to reach a deal with creditors before having to fully liquidate its fleet, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

On the earnings front, Autozone reported earnings and sales numbers that topped Wall Street estimates.

Commodities were mixed, with West Texas Intermediate crude oil up 3 percent at $34.25 a barrel and gold down 0.6 percent at $1,743 an ounce.

U.S. Treasurys were lower, causing the yield on the 10-year note to rise by 2.9 basis points to 0.688 percent.

European markets were higher across the board with Britain’s FTSE gaining 1.18 percent, France’s CAC advancing 1.02 percent and Germany’s DAX climbing 0.58 percent.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei paced the advance, gaining 2.55 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and China’s Shanghai Composite were up 1.88 percent and 1.01 percent, respectively.

*story by Fox News