NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market’s first reaction to Friday’s incredibly poor jobs report was to take it in stride. But Wall Street slid during the day as investors priced in the likelihood of even worse numbers on the way.
Shares initially held steady after the government said U.S. employers cut 701,000 more jobs than they added last month, the first drop in nearly a decade. Many companies have ground to a halt amid attempts to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, and investors fully expected to see such abysmal numbers.
But the market fell as the day wore on and, as has become typical on recent Fridays, investors looked to get out of stocks ahead of the weekend, which could be filled with even more bad news. news. Losses accelerated after the governor of New York announced the biggest daily jump yet for coronavirus deaths in the nation’s hardest-hit state.
“It was interesting to see that the initial reaction to the number of jobs was not greater,” said Lindsey Bell, chief investment strategist at Ally Invest. “As that sank, you started to see the market start to sell off after you realized those numbers were going to get a lot uglier.”
The S&P 500 fell 38.25 points, or 1.5%, to 2,488.65. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 360.91 points, or 1.7%, to 21,052.53, and the Nasdaq fell 114.23, or 1.5%, to 7,373.08. Stocks of small companies fell much more than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 Index lost 33.76 points, or 3.1%, to 1,052.05.
Potentially scary events on the calendar include Thursday’s weekly jobless claims report, which was the closest thing to a real-time measure of the ferocity with which layoffs have swept the country. The companies will also soon start reporting earnings results for the first three months of the year, with reporting season kicking off in earnest in two weeks. Next month’s jobs report may even show that the economy erased the last of 22.8 million jobs created during its nearly decade-long hiring spell.
Friday’s jobs report likely didn’t fully capture the scale of recent job losses, which have accelerated by the day, as it collected data prior to the widespread stay-at-home orders.
“There’s a lot worse to come,” said Eric Winograd, senior economist at AllianceBernstein.
Above all, investors will be watching the number of new coronavirus cases. Only the peak of it can provide some clarity on the duration and depth of the economic downturn.
“The worry is that there’s just too much uncertainty,” said Mark Hackett, head of investment research for Nationwide.
The S&P 500 is down 26.5% since its record high set in February, reflecting the growing assumption that the economy is on the verge of slipping into a sudden and extremely sharp recession.
The panic selling that dominated the first few weeks of selling has eased a bit since Washington released massive aid packages to help markets and the economy. The Federal Reserve promised to buy as many Treasury securities as needed to keep credit markets functioning, and Congress approved a $2.2 trillion bailout package for the economy.
“Together, these actions are stunning and unprecedented and will help cushion the economic blow of this health crisis and move the country to the other side,” said Rick Rieder, chief investment officer of global fixed income at BlackRock. .
Last week, the S&P 500 lost 2.1%, a smoother swing than the 10.3% rise and 15% decline of the previous two weeks.
The United States has more than 266,000 confirmed cases of the virus, which tops the global tally of more than one million compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild to moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially the elderly and people with medical conditions, it can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia and death.
More than 58,000 people have died, but more than 225,000 have recovered.
Businesses that were hanging on just before the outbreak due to the then strong economy may not survive. Retail chains and shopping centers in particular are at risk, said Peter Essele, head of portfolio management for Commonwealth Financial Network.
“It’s a bit of a bushfire that we’re going to have,” he said. “The fittest will survive the other end of this.”
Markets rallied a bit on Friday thanks to another gain in oil prices.
Benchmark U.S. crude climbed 11.9% to $28.34 a barrel, adding to its nearly 25% rise the day before on expectations that Saudi Arabia and Russia could reverse their war prices. Brent crude, the international standard, rose $4.17 to $34.11 a barrel.
The world is awash in oil as demand for energy slumps, and President Donald Trump said on Thursday that rivals could be on the verge of cutting production to prop up the price of oil.
Whether oil-producing nations follow through on this adds an additional layer of uncertainty for the market.