Wall Street continues to rally on 'positive data' from coronavirus treatment study

Investors have repeatedly said the way forward for the economy starts with an effective treatment or vaccine for the coronavirus.
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By Lucy Bayly

Wall Street rallied on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumping by 600 points after a potential treatment for coronavirus offered promising results.

The S&P 500 also traded higher by around 3 percent by midday, with the Nasdaq gaining 3.5 percent.

California-based biotech company Gilead Sciences said Wednesday it had "positive data" from a study on remdesivir, an antiviral treatment, conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Trading for Gilead was halted in premarket activity after data showed that a 5-day dosing regiment was as effective as a 10-day course, which bodes well for production of the drug and the haste with which it could be brought to market.

A separate study also showed that patients' conditions improved the earlier they received the drug. Gilead shares were up by around 10 percent at the opening bell Wednesday.

Optimism from the drug trial outweighed concerns over government data released Wednesday morning that showed economic growth hit its first negative quarterly read since 2014.

Gross domestic product, which measures the output of goods and services, sank by 4.8 percent in the first quarter on an annualized basis, the Commerce Department said. The data, while grim, was mostly in line with economists' forecasts.

It's the steepest decline since the Great Recession, which ended in 2009. Economic growth was tracking at or above 2 percent until mid-March.

Consumer spending, which drives around two-thirds of economic growth, has plummeted as most of the nation remains in lockdown.

"A significant retrenchment in household spending, which had been providing critical support to the economy, is only going to get worse in the second quarter, as labor market conditions remain weak and job prospects remain dim," said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, noting further layoffs are likely.