Wall Street rallies on promising coronavirus drug

A big rally on Wall Street Wednesday, fueled by encouraging news from Gilead Sciences on its antiviral drug remdesivir.

The Dow and S&P 500 surged, while the Nasdaq soared more than 3.5%.

The gains intensified after Dr. Anthony Fauci called new data on remdesivir 'highly significant' as one key study showed the drug helped patients recover more quickly from the illness caused by the coronavirus.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, SAYING:

"The data shows that remdesivir has a clear cut, significant positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery."

Stocks managed to hold on to those gains in the afternoon, even as U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell painted a grim picture of the U.S. economy and the path ahead.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIR, JEROME POWELL, SAYING:

"Both the depth and the duration of the economic downturn are extraordinarily uncertain and will depend in large part on how quickly the virus is brought under control. The severity of the downturn will also depend on the policy actions taken at all levels of government to cushion the blow and to support the recovery when the public health crisis passes."

The Fed left interest rates near zero - something CFRA Research's Sam Stovall says Wall Street was expecting.

(SOUDNBITE) (English) CFRA RESEARCH CHIEF INVESTMENT STRATEGIST, SAM STOVALL, SAYING:

"The Fed had already opened up the spigots, bringing rates back to zero, engaging in buybacks of bonds and ensuring their is a fiscal and monetary backstop. So really the Fed is continuing to say that it will do whatever it needs to do so that this economy remains on a solid footing."

Meanwhile shares of Microsoft, Tesla and Facebook extended their rally after the close. All three companies reported stellar earnings.

Microsoft beat Wall Street expectations on quarterly revenue, which jumped 15 percent, powered by its cloud service, Azure.

While Facebook and Tesla also beat on sales. Plus, Tesla reported a solid number of deliveries during the first quarter despite disruptions due to the coronavirus.