Wall Street opens mixed as millions file for unemployment
Stocks are off to a mixed start on Wall Street after the government reported that millions of more people filed for unemployment benefits last week, though not quite as many as had been feared, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
The 5.2 million new claims came as layoffs sweep the country because of widespread business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders issued in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The S&P 500 rose 0.2% in early trading Thursday, but other indicators fell. The S&P 500 is up slightly for the week but is still 17% below the record high it set in mid-February. Bond prices rose, sending yields lower.
Global stocks were mixed Thursday after unexpectedly weak U.S. retail and other data added to gloom about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Frankfurt and Shanghai gained while Tokyo and Hong Kong declined. London was little-changed.
The future for Wall Street’s S&P 500 index edged up a day after the benchmark fell 2.2% on news U.S. retail sales and factory output plunged in March. The retail figures hit especially hard because consumer spending is two-thirds of the U.S. economy.
The announcements shook investors who economists have warned are too optimistic about a quick rebound from what is shaping up to be the deepest global slump since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
“Boy, were U.S. data a rude awakening,” said Riki Ogawa of Mizuho Bank in a report.
Any notion of a “V-shaped recovery” once anti-virus controls are lifted “is now being questioned more seriously,” Ogawa said.
In early trading, London’s FTSE 100 gained 1 point to 5,598.74 and Frankfurt’s DAX rose 1.3% to 10,410.75. The CAC 40 in Paris added 1.1% to 4,402.91.
On Wall Street, the future for the S&P 500 index the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.4%.
On Wednesday, the Dow fell 1.9% and the Nasdaq lost 1.4%.
In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 fell 1.3% to 19,290.20 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.6% to 24,006.45. Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 lost 1.3% to 5,397.60.
The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.3% to 2,819.94. Seoul’s Kospi ended unchanged at 1,857.07 after swinging between gains and losses.
India’s Sensex gained 1.1% to 30,716.93. New Zealand’s main index added 0.6% while Singapore gained and Thailand and Jakarta retreated.
The U.S. retail sales decline exceeded the previous record decline of 3.9% during the Great Recession in November 2008.
Auto sales dropped 25.6%, while clothing store sales plunged 50.5%. Restaurants and bars reported a nearly 27% fall in revenue.
Spending may be falling at an even faster pace than retail figures suggest. Those data don’t include spending on services such as hotel stays, airline tickets or movie theatres, industries that have been largely shut down by anti-virus controls.
Also, Wednesday, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said its gauge for manufacturing in New York state fell by its biggest monthly margin in April. The index is at its lowest level on record.
Traders say stocks will be volatile until investors can see more clearly when countries might be able to stop the outbreak.
Energy stocks took the sharpest losses after oil prices touched another 18-year low.
Global oil demand will fall this year by a record amount, the International Energy Agency said Wednesday.
Benchmark U.S. crude gained 39 cents to $20.26 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday, the contract touched its lowest price since 2002 before recovering to $19.87. Brent crude used to price international oils, advanced 58 cents to $28.28 per barrel in London. It fell $1.91, or 6.5%, the previous session to $27.69.
Investors are focusing on how and when authorities may begin to ease business shutdowns and limits on people’s movements.
President Donald Trump has been discussing how to roll back federal social distancing recommendations. U.S. governors are collaborating on plans to reopen their economies in what is likely to be a gradual process to prevent the coronavirus from rebounding.
China has reopened factories, shops and other businesses after declaring victory over the outbreak, but forecasters say it will take months for industries to return to normal output, while exporters will face depressed global demand.
With millions of job losses worldwide, “the more lasting damage to confidence and labour market shocks is also being under-estimated, and these may not recover in tandem with the pandemic,” said Mizuho’s Ogawa.
The dollar advanced to 107.72 Japanese yen from Wednesday’s 107.43 yen. The euro fell to $1.0889 from $1.0911.