U.S. markets closed

Dow tumbles 730 points as coronavirus spike threatens economic recovery

James Langford

Stocks plunged Friday as a rebound in COVID-19 infections began to slow America's reopening from economically wrenching lockdowns and new risks materialized to President Trump's trade deal with China.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which dipped briefly below the 25,000 mark before rebounding, closed down 729 points or 2.84 percent while the S&P tumbled 2.42 percent.

Financial stocks paced the drop as investors reacted to the Federal Reserve's decision to cap dividends and halt stock-buybacks until at least Sept. 30 against an easing of the so-called Volcker Rule.

The regulation, named for former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker and imposed after the 2008 financial crisis, barred banks from speculative trades on their own accounts. Easing it may buoy their revenue.

Limiting payouts to investors, meanwhile, will preserve capital as lenders navigate the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Energy names also fell on concerns about weak demand tied to the virus.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 2.59 pressured by Facebook which slid as more large companies including Unilever and Verizon announced plans to halt advertising on the platform until the social media giant can control hate speech.


Companies from Ben & Jerry'sPatagoniaThe North Face and Eddie Bauer are pressuring Facebook and other social media firms to do a better job of curbing hate speech on their platforms.

The U.S., which has the most cases in the world, recorded an all-time high of about 40,000 new ones on Thursday after states and cities began allowing people back in stores, restaurants and public gathering spots such as beaches.

Arizona alone confirmed 3,056 new cases Thursday, and Gov. Doug Ducey said the state would delay further phases of its reopening, joining Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana and Delaware.


The rise in coronavirus infections, which prompted Florida and Texas to close bars, also ratcheted up pressure on travel-related stocks such as airlines, whose executives were headed to a White House meeting on Friday.

Against that backdrop, American Airlines said it would lift limits on the number of seats sold per flight while offering passengers the chance to rebook on partially empty ones if they choose.

Markets simultaneously grappled with a report from the Wall Street Journal that China has begun hinting that it may not follow through on provisions of the trade pact including large crop purchases unless Washington tamps down harsh rhetoric on human rights offenses and the lessening of Hong Kong's autonomy.

Under the deal, which Trump campaigned on achieving, Beijing agreed in January to buy $200 billion worth of U.S. goods over two years.

An antitrust probe of search-engine giant Google is nearing completion, meanwhile, according to a report from Reuters, which said the Justice Department has requested information by the end of this month from companies that say Google abused its dominance of the internet advertising market.

In the consumer sector, Nike was under pressure after a $790 million loss in a quarter when almost all of its stores were shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sales plummeted 38 percent to $6.3 billion, falling far short of the $7.3 billion that Wall Street analysts expected, according to Refinitiv data.

Grocery-store chain Albertson's, which began trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday, was roiled by a broader market downturn despite potential benefits from the change in Americans' eating habits due to the pandemic. The stock fell over 3 percent on its debut.

In commodities markets, West Texas Intermediate crude slipped over 3 percent for the week to $38.49 while gold settled at $1,772.50 an ounce, the highest in nearly eight years.

European markets were mixed, with London's FTSE gaining 0.2 percent while France's CAC 40 dropped 0.18 percent and Germany's DAX fell 0.73 percent.


Asian stock markets were mixed: The Nikkei in Tokyo rose 1.13 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 0.93 percent.

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