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US STOCKS-Wall St surges on hopes of slowing coronavirus deaths

By Chuck Mikolajczak

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* Utilities lead gains among major S&P 500 sectors

* Banks stocks track Treasury yields higher

* Volatility index falls to two-week low

* Dow up 5.85%, S&P 500 up 5.59%, Nasdaq up 5.63% (Updates to mid-afternoon, changes byline)

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, April 6 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks surged on Monday, with each of the major indexes rallying more than 5%, after a drop in the daily death toll in New York, the country's biggest coronavirus hot spot, fueled hopes a leveling off of the pandemic was on the horizon.

On Sunday, New York, the biggest U.S. hot spot, reported virus-related deaths that had fallen slightly from the day before, the first instance in a week.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo followed on Monday that hospitalizations of coronavirus patients are down and the rate of the rise in deaths has leveled off in the hardest-hit state, but he cautioned against complacency.

"It is definitely not going to be a one-way street but this potentially could be a turning point, we are starting to get some good news and hopefully that trend will continue," said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.

"But that is not to say it is going to be a smooth path. We all know from the recovery we experienced after the 2008 financial crisis there is always a potential for a negative development to cause the market to pull back again."

Even with the positive signs, U.S. officials have braced the country for a "peak death week" from the pandemic, with the death toll topping 10,000.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1,232.49 points, or 5.85%, to 22,285.02, the S&P 500 gained 139.16 points, or 5.59%, to 2,627.81 and the Nasdaq Composite added 415.36 points, or 5.63%, to 7,788.44.

All 30 Dow components were in positive territory, led by a gain of 17.54% in Boeing shares, while the defensive utilities, up 7.59%, was the best performing of the 11 major S&P sectors.

The S&P 500 banking index jumped 6.78% and was poised for its best day in more than a week. Bank of America , Citigroup, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan advanced between 5.8% and 8.8%, tracking Treasury yields.

Wall Street's fear gauge fell to its lowest in two weeks, but remained at elevated levels. During the financial crisis of 2007-08, the S&P 500 took months to establish a bottom even after the volatility index plummeted.

Despite Monday's bounce, the S&P 500 remains down more than 22% from its mid-February record close.

S&P 500 companies are expected to enter an earnings recession in 2020, with declines in profit in the first and second quarters, according to IBES data from Refinitiv, as demand evaporates across sectors such as airlines, luxury goods and industrials. First quarter expectations now call for an earnings decline of 6% from the year-ago period.

Versace owner Capri Holdings surged 27.9% after saying it expects to open its stores after June 1 and that it would furlough all its 7,000 employees in North America.

Video conferencing app Zoom fell 7.5% on concerns over its data-privacy practices and increased competition from deep-pocketed rivals.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 8.45-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 5.11-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 2 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 6 new highs and 28 new lows. (Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak Editing by Nick Zieminski)