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Stocks end higher as traders hope restrictions will ease

Big companies have also started reporting their first-quarter earnings, giving investors an early peek into how the outbreak was affecting them.

TOKYO, Japan — Stocks are ending with solid gains on Wall Street Tuesday as the market turns its attention to how and when authorities may begin to lift business shutdowns and limits on people’s movements imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

Big companies also started reporting their first-quarter earnings, giving investors an early peek into how the outbreak was affecting them. 

Johnson & Johnson rose after beating earnings estimates and raising its dividend, even though the health care giant also had to slash its outlook. 

JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo fell after saying they were bracing for losses on loans as millions of Americans became unemployed.

European markets were mostly higher after reopening following a holiday. Asian markets ended mostly higher.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 0.74% from 0.75% late Monday.

Johnson & Johnson rose after beating earnings estimates, even thought the health care giant also had to slash its outlook. JPMorgan Chase rose after setting aside billions of dollars to cover potential losses.

Analysts predict that earnings for all the companies in the S&P 500 will be down 9% in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to FactSet. That would be the biggest annual decline in earnings for the index since the third quarter of 2009 when earnings slumped nearly 16%.

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Cautious optimism that the outbreak in the U.S. has begun to plateau in some of the worst-hit areas and another big infusion of economic support by the Federal Reserve helped spur a big rally for the market last week.

The closure of businesses and mandates for people to stay home to combat the coronavirus pandemic have forced record numbers of people out of work, raising the possibility that many businesses could end up bankrupt.

The International Monetary Fund said Tuesday that the world economy will suffer its worst year since the Great Depression.

There are more than 1.92 million confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, led by the United States with more than 582,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Still, positive signs in New York and other areas that have seen a big share of COVID-19 cases are fueling a debate in Washington and among state governors about when and how to reopen the economy after weeks of tough social distancing guidelines aimed at fighting the outbreak.

Anxious to put the crisis behind him, President Donald Trump has been discussing with senior aides how to roll back federal social distancing recommendations that expire at the end of the month. On Monday, Trump asserted that he he could force governors to reopen their states.

Data released Tuesday showed China’s exports fell at a slower pace in March than in the previous two months. Forecasters warned of harder times ahead as the coronavirus pandemic depresses global demand and disrupts production, supply chains and finance.

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