Stocks ended little changed Friday, as ongoing signs of the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic compounded with fears of rising U.S.-China tensions.
As a slew of quarterly corporate earnings results came in mixed, each of the three major U.S. equity indices posted weekly advances of about 3%, with investors largely factoring in the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis into asset prices.
But a new source of uncertainty surfaced on Friday, after U.S. senators introducing a bipartisan bill that would sanction Chinese officials and organizations who enforce newly introduced security measures in Hong Kong. This came after the Senate passed a bill that would make it more difficult for Chinese companies to list on U.S. stock exchanges, which kept all three major indices hemmed in tight ranges.
Overnight, Chinese officials at their National People’s Congress in Beijing declined to provide an annual gross domestic product target for the country’s economic growth for the first time since the practice began about three decades ago, underscoring the economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic. During the first quarter, China’s quarterly GDP growth turned negative for the first time on record, plunging by 6.8%.
Although layoffs in the world’s largest economy continue to mount, analysts believe that current data reflect how officials are finally working through a mountain of applications that overwhelmed states in the crisis’ initial stages.
“The long fat tail in the profile of job losses during this pandemic suggests that layoffs are no longer just because of the economy shutting down and a backlog of claims being processed,” Torsten Slok, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities, said in a note.
“Instead, the fact that we still lost 2.4 [million] jobs last week after nine weeks of COVID-19 suggests that what is going on is a more permanent reallocation of workers away from jobs in industries that require a high degree of face-to-face and close physical interaction,” he added.
Amid economic data that has remained historically weak, Federal Reserve officials have dimmed hopes of a speedy, V-shaped recovery – an outcome the stock market, up 32% from its March 23 low, has appeared more unwilling to bet against so far.
In commentary Thursday, New York Fed President John Williams said he forecasted a “a couple very difficult months ahead of us,” and Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida also said he believed the “net effect” of the pandemic would be “for aggregate demand to decline relative to aggregate supply, both in the near term and over the medium term.”
4:02 p.m. ET: Stocks close Friday’s session little changed
Here’s where the three major indices settled at the end of Friday’s session:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): +6.94 points (+0.24%) to 2,955.45
Dow (^DJI): -8.96 points (-0.04%) to 24,465.16
Nasdaq (^IXIC): +39.71 points (+0.43%) to 9,324.59
2:38 p.m. ET: Crude oil settles 2% lower as concerns over China relations flare
U.S. West Texas intermediate crude oil prices fell 2%, or 67 cents, on Friday to settle at $33.25 per barrel, with concerns over potentially strained U.S.-China relations generating jitters across risk assets.
Still, prices were were up more than 12% for the week for the front contract of WTI.
1:26 p.m. ET: Stocks pare declines, S&P 500 and Nasdaq turn positive
Here were the main moves in markets as of 1:27 p.m. ET:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): +0.27 points (+0.01%) to 2,948.78
Dow (^DJI): -67.88 points (-0.28%) to 24,406.24
Nasdaq (^IXIC): +27.29 points (+0.29%) to 9,312.31
Crude (CL=F): -$0.74 (-2.18%) to $33.18 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): +$12.80 (+0.74%) to $1,734.70 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -1.6 bps to yield 0.661%
12:40 p.m. ET: Fauci warns of ‘irreparable damage’ if US stays closed to long: CNBC
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said in an interview with CNBC that he did not support protracted stay-in-place orders, noting that these could inflict “irreparable damage” to the U.S. economy.
“I don’t want people to think that any of us feel that staying locked down for a prolonged period of time is the way to go,” he said, according to the CNBC interview.
Instead, he advocated a phased reopening to get back to “some degree of normal,” while also cautioning that easing social distancing too quickly could bring on another jump in COVID-19 cases.
9:36 a.m. ET: Stocks open lower
Here were the main moves in markets as of 9:36 a.m. ET:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): -6.18 points (-0.21%) to 2,942.33
Dow (^DJI): -92.85 points (-0.38%) to 24,381.27
Nasdaq (^IXIC): -26.15 points (-0.28%) to 9,258.65
Crude (CL=F): -$0.99 (-2.92%) to $32.93 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): +$12.10 (+0.7%) to $1,734.00 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -1.1 bps to yield 0.666%
8:30 a.m. ET: Alibaba revenue growth slows amid pandemic
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA) reported a revenue deceleration in the first three months of the year amid the coronavirus pandemic, with sales growing 22% from a 51% pace of increase in the same quarter last year. Annual active customers on its Chinese retail marketplaces grew 11% to 726 million.
“Although the pandemic negatively impacted most of our domestic core commerce businesses starting in late January, we have seen a steady recovery since March,” CFO Maggie Wu said in a statement.
During an earnings call Friday morning, Wu said Alibaba will “closely monitor” the developments of the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act passed by the U.S. Senate earlier this week, which moves to delist foreign issuers listed on U.S. exchanges that are found not to comply with U.S. accounting principles.
Wu said Alibaba holds itself to a “high standard of transparency” and that Alibaba’s financial statements are prepared in accordance with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).
7:15 a.m. ET Friday: Stock futures lower heading into Friday’s regular session
Here were the main moves in markets as of 7:15 a.m. ET:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 2,927.5, down 9.5 points (-0.32%)
Dow futures (YM=F): 24,290.00, down 86 points (-0.35%)
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 9,314.75, down 41 points (-0.44%)
Crude (CL=F): -$2.00 (+5.90%) to $31.92 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): +$14.00 (+0.81%) to $1,735.90 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -2.8 bps to yield 0.649%
6:04 p.m. ET Thursday: Stock futures open slightly lower
Here were the main moves at the start of the overnight session for U.S. equity futures, as of 6:03 p.m. ET:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 2,935.5, down 1.5 points (-0.05%)
Dow futures (YM=F): 24,369, down 7 points (-0.03%)
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 9,356.00, flat