U.S. equities finished modestly lower in a rocky session that saw a 700-point swing in the Dow, as the optimism over a flattening of the COVID-19 pandemic’s curve that sparked yesterday’s rally was tempered by news of a large increase in deaths out of New York related to virus. .
Treasury yields were mostly higher as bond prices fell, while the U.S. dollar was sharply lower and gold lost ground.
Crude oil prices declined with attention on whether OPEC+ will deliver production cuts and if Russia and Saudi Arabia can end their price war.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 26 points (0.1%) to 22,654
The S&P 500 Index declined 4 points (0.2%) to 2,659
The Nasdaq Composite lost 26 points (0.3%) to 7,887
In heavy volume, 1.4 billion shares were traded on the NYSE and 4.0 billion shares changed hands on the NASDAQ
WTI crude oil shed $2.45 to $23.63 per barrel and wholesale gasoline was down $0.05 at $0.65 per gallon
The Bloomberg gold spot price was $3.30 lower at $1,657.67 per ounce
The Dollar Index—a comparison of the U.S. dollar to six major world currencies—lost 0.8% to 99.88
Small business optimism falls, job openings dip, Treasury yields mostly higher
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index for March fell to 96.4, from February’s 104.5 level. This was the largest monthly decline in the survey’s history and the index hit the lowest level since October 2016. The NFIB said nine of the ten index components declined, which is evidence that economic disruptions are escalating on Main Street as small businesses struggle to keep their doors open.
The Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), a measure of unmet demand for labor, declined by a smaller amount than expected to 6.88 million jobs available to be filled in February, from January’s upwardly-revised 7.01 million figure and above forecasts calling for 6.50 million. The report showed the hiring rate remained at January’s 3.9% rate and separations dipped to 3.6% from 3.7%.
Treasuries were mostly lower, as the yield on the 2-year note was flat at 0.27%, while the yield on the 10-year note gained 4 basis points to 0.72%, and the 30-year bond rate gained 2 bps to 1.31%.
Tomorrow’s economic calendar will be light, offering only MBA Mortgage Applications and the minutes from the Fed’s emergency March 15th policy meeting.
Europe and Asia higher amid positive signs regarding coronavirus war
European equities finished higher for a second day, extending a recent bounce on continued optimism that the COVID-19 pandemic may be leveling off following early positive signs out of hot spots in New York, Italy and Spain. Moreover, further signs suggesting the original epicenter of China, along with South Korea, continue to recover appeared to also add to the positive tone in the markets.
The U.K. FTSE 100 Index and Italy’s FTSE MIB Index were up 2.2%, France’s CAC-40 Index advanced 2.1%, Spain’s IBEX 35 Index rose 2.3%, Germany’s DAX Index rallied 2.8%, and Switzerland’s Swiss Market Index gained 0.6%.
Stocks in Asia mostly rallied, with markets in China and India returning to action following yesterday’s holiday breaks, amid continued global optimism that the war against the COVID-19 pandemic may be turning a positive corner. With new cases and death tolls appearing to ease in hot spots out of the U.S. and Europe, China reported no new deaths for the first time since January and South Korea continued to see its new case rate decelerate.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index gained 2.0%, despite some late-day strength in the yen, potentially aided by February data showing household spending fell by a much smaller amount than projected and earnings figures were stronger than forecasted. China’s Shanghai Composite Index and the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index both advanced 2.1%, while India’s S&P BSE Sensex 30 Index surged 9.0% and South Korea’s Kospi Index increased 1.8%.