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Stocks Surge After White House Says It's Open To Pandemic Aid After All

Updated at 4:35 p.m. ET

Stocks finished sharply higher after President Trump said he's open to stand-alone bills to aid airlines and small businesses, a reversal from statements he made earlier.

All the major stock indexes jumped, bouncing back from steep losses Tuesday. The benchmark S&P 500 ended up 1.7%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up more than 530 points, or 1.9%. The Nasdaq composite index gained 1.9%.

Airlines, lodging and cruise ship stocks did especially well, with United Airlines up 4.3% and Delta Air Lines rising 3.5%.

Stock prices fell suddenly Tuesday afternoon after Trump tweeted he was ending negotiations with House Democrats over a potential economic aid bill.

Hours after sending out the tweet, Trump seemed to reverse course, saying he was "ready to sign right now" if Congress approved a bill to issue $1,200 checks for Americans. He also said he favored aid for airlines and another $135 billion to help small businesses.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Wednesday morning that Trump wrote the tweet after talking to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy about the lack of progress in talks with House Democrats.

Trump believes it was "better to be transparent" with Americans about the likelihood of an aid bill passing, Meadows said on Fox News.

Meadows said he was not optimistic about a comprehensive bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is insisting on as much as $2.4 trillion in aid, which he called "incredibly high numbers," while Republicans have offered a $1.6 trillion plan.

But Meadows indicated that he and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are discussing legislation to provide aid in stand-alone bills to businesses hit by the pandemic.

Airlines have seen their passenger traffic plummet since the pandemic lockdowns began. With relief talks stalled, airlines have announced they are furloughing thousands of employees.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jim Zarroli
Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.