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Despite grim expectations for the global economy hit by the novel coronavirus, stocks closed higher Thursday, making up for earlier losses and reflecting investors' optimism about an end to the shutdowns soon.
In the U.S., major market indexes made gains by the end of the trading day. The Dow Jones industrial average was up about 33 points or 0.14% to close near 23,537. The S&P 500 rose about 16 points or 0.55%, closing at about 2,799. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 139 points or 1.66% to close near 8,532.
European markets also reflected mild optimism Thursday. London's FTSE index gained 0.55% and the DAX in Frankfurt gained 0.21%, but the CAC-40 in Paris fell 0.08%.
Trading in Asia was mixed Thursday, with indexes in Tokyo, Sydney and Hong Kong all finishing in negative territory, while Seoul's KOSPI index was flat and Shanghai's index closed 0.3% higher.
The outlook is also bleak for Asia economies this year, with the International Monetary Fund predicting that growth in the region will stall at 0%, its worst number in 60 years.
In the United States, the Labor Department said another 5.2 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total to about 22 million unemployed since the shutdowns began. Goldman Sachs researchers say they are expecting about 37 million claims by the end of May.
The U.S. government's loan program for small businesses was suspended on Thursday after the Small Business Administration announced that it had reached the $349 billion lending limit. Thousands of small-business owners whose loans have not yet been processed must now wait for Congress to approve a Trump administration request for another $250 billion for the program. It is not clear if or when the lawmakers might reach an agreement that would allow loan approvals to continue.
The Trump administration is planning to ease restrictions in parts of the country that have been less affected by the virus, to try to avert a looming economic collapse. But the least affected areas are in the sparsely populated states, whose economic activity is not sufficient to stem the crisis in the whole country.