Stocks waver after government reports 700,000 job losses
Stocks are wavering in early trading on Wall Street after the government reported that more than 700,000 jobs were lost last month. The S&P 500 was up 0.4% in the first few minutes of trading. Businesses have shut down across the country and the world as people stay home in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. European markets were down after losses in most of Asia. The price of oil continued to rise on hopes for a global deal to limit overproduction, which helped boost energy stocks. The price of benchmark U.S. crude rose 7%.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story is below:
Global stock markets were down Friday after the U.S. government said employers cut 701,000 jobs in March as they shut down or sharply curtailed business due to the coronavirus outbreak.
European markets were lower after losses in most of Asia. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 77 points shortly after the report was released, compared with a decline of 100 points around 8:30 a.m.
The report comes a day after the government said a record 6.6 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week. The S&P 500 has fallen less than 1% so far this week, but is down 25% from the record it set back on Feb. 19.
In Europe, the FTSE 100 in London sank 0.9% to 5,431 and Frankfurt’s DAX was flat at 9,574. The CAC 40 in Paris lost 0.8% to 4,187.
In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.6% to 2,763.99 and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 gained 1.5 points to 17,820.19. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.2% to 23,236.11 after falling as much as 0.8% earlier.
The Kospi in Seoul ended unchanged at 1,725.44 after being down 0.6%. Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 declined 1.7% to 5,067.50 and India’s Sensex lost 1.9% to 27,727.19.
The price of oil continued higher after President Donald Trump said on Twitter he expected major oil producers Saudi Arabia and Russia to back away from their price-cutting war. But by midday, most Asian markets had retreated again.
Benchmark U.S. crude added $3.04 to $28.36 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained $4.92 to $34.86 per barrel in London.
Markets usually welcome lower energy costs for companies and consumers. But the abrupt plunge to below $20 this week from $60 at the start of the year triggered fears heavily indebted producers might default, undermining credit markets.
On Thursday, U.S. crude surged $5.01, or almost 25%, to $25.32 per barrel following Trump’s comments. The Kremlin denied President Vladimir Putin had talked with the prince but Saudi Arabia called for a meeting of major producers including Russia.
Traders expect more volatility in financial markets until numbers of new coronavirus cases begin to decline, which forecasters say might be weeks away.
The number of confirmed cases worldwide has topped 1 million, led by the United States with more than 236,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
More than 51,000 have died, but more than 208,000 have recovered.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The dollar edged up to 108.51 yen from Thursday’s 107.90 yen. The euro declined to $1.0785 from $1.0856.
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