After grim job numbers are released, stock markets continue rising—here's why

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      It was a confusing day for the average person who's trying to heed the advice of public-health authorities by staying home.

      On the one hand, Statistics Canada reported a 2.2 percent hike in the national unemployment rate in March to 7.8 percent.

      More than one million Canadians ceased working and the overall employment rate of those aged 15 and older fell to 58.5 percent. That's the lowest rate since April 1997.

      South of the border, more than 16 million American workers lost their jobs over a three-week period.

      Yet two major U.S. stock indexes—the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500—ended this week up more than 12 percent.

      The benchmark S&P/TSX composite index shot up 9.5 percent between Monday morning and the Thursday close.

      As workers were bombarding government phone lines and websites seeking financial relief, money managers and retail investors were celebrating the possibility that stock-market indices might have already hit bottom and were back on the way up.

      Normally, the prospect of an economic slowdown spooks the markets because that can lead to expectations of lower corporate profits.

      But in this instance, that's overshadowed by the growing realization that the COVID-19 pandemic isn't going to go on forever. 

      Data from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation show that some of the hardest-hit countries have flattened the curve of new infections.

      That includes Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and Ireland.

      The news is still grim, of course. In the United States, the number of fatalities grew by 10,610, or 175 percent, in a single week.

      But in China, where the outbreak originated, there are only 144 serious cases and 1,116 active cases, as of today.

      In that country, 77,455 people have recovered from the novel coronavirus.

      In British Columbia, the number of hospitalizations is down from the start of the month—and the number of people in intensive care seems to have more or less stabilized. Those are positive signs.

      There have still been more than 400 deaths in Canada linked to COVID-19. And according to Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, that number could rise to between 11,000 and 22,000 if 2.5 percent to 5 percent of the population becomes infected.

      As awful as this forecast is, it provides a degree of certainty, which had been missing for quite a while. And the investment community loves certainty.

      Then toss in wage subsidies for employers. Take heed of the likely end of the Saudi-Russian oil-price feud.

      On top of that, central bankers are employing quantitative easing to lubricate the economy with more money. And there's the recent departure of democratic socialist Bernie Sanders from the presidential sweepstakes,

      This week, it seems, that was more than enough to reverse the slide in stock prices. For now.