The coronavirus pandemic continued to weigh on U.S. stocks on Thursday, which opened lower before clawing into positive territory, as heavily weighted technology shares outperformed.
Earlier, stocks had floundered after new data on the U.S. labor market underscored rising joblessness amid the coronavirus outbreak, and after the European Central Bank launched a multibillion-euro debt purchasing program to provide aid to the virus-stricken region.
While the gains were a welcomed, if temporary, respite after Wednesday’s steep losses, they did little to replenish the overall declines over the past few weeks. As of yesterday’s close, the Dow had corrected more than 32% from its Feb. 12 high.
[Scroll down for Yahoo Finance’s markets live blog]
A growing pile of disappointing U.S. economic data has weighed on investors already spooked by the public health crisis the coronavirus outbreak has invoked. The U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday reported a surge of 70,000 new jobless claims for the week ending March 14, reflecting a much greater than expected number of individuals filing for unemployment insurance. The total number of initial jobless claims came in at 281,000 for the week – the highest level since September 2017.
While the report already reflected a weakening labor market, other economists believe the worst is yet to come. Jobless claims next week could “spike by several hundred thousand” and eventually “breach a million,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a note Thursday just before the latest report was released.
The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has pushed policymakers around the world to unleash stimulus measures and impose stiff restrictions on travel and public gatherings to prevent further spreading.
Late Wednesday, the European Central Bank launched a so-called Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program (PEPP), comprising 750 billion euros ($818 billion) worth of debt purchases aimed at helping the floundering regional economy amid the coronavirus outbreak. The new measures will bring the ECB’s total planned bond purchases this year to 1.1 trillion euros.
Domestically, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan, multi-billion dollar emergency package that includes expanded unemployment insurance and paid sick leave for hourly workers. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law late Wednesday, as it had already received approval from the House of Representatives.
12:00 p.m. ET: Grim statistics on the market sell-off
Courtesy of BMO Capital Markets, here’s some new data on a market addled by the COVID-19 crisis that puts the recent volatility into perspective:
- For the first time ever, the S&P 500 has moved at least 4% for seven consecutive days
- Nearly 70% of the S&P 500 hit 52 week lows this week
- CBOE’s volatility index (VIX) set an all-time high (meaning markets are even more fearful than they were during the 2008 crisis)
Stocks are holding gains in midday trading, after riding a roller-coaster after the opening bell. The Nasdaq is leading the charge, helped by Microsoft and Amazon.
11:05 a.m. ET: Microsoft helps boost Nasdaq in glum market
The world’s new working from home reality is benefiting a clutch of tech names (hello Zoom), but investors can thank Microsoft (and AMZN, which is surging by over 3%) for today’s jump in tech stocks. Teams, the software giant’s competitor to Slack (WORK) has seen a boom in paid clients, Microsoft (MSFT) disclosed earlier:
As previously shared, as of March 11, 2020 we counted 32 million daily users of Teams, which was mostly in line with our growth trajectory and projections. As of March 18, 2020, that number has grown by 12 million to 44 million daily users around the world. And we now have 20 customers with over 100k users (vs 14 as previously shared).
Slack’s shares are also surging on the boost from paid customers, as more companies require employees to work remotely as the coronavirus extends its grip on the global economy.
10:18 a.m. ET: All three major indices turn positive
The S&P 500 and Dow joined the Nasdaq and rose Thursday morning, steadying after Wednesday’s rout. spx
As of 10:18 a.m. ET, the S&P 500 was up 11.19 points, or 0.47%, led by gains in the Big Tech-heavy Communications sector. The Dow rose 32.15 points, or 0.16%, as gains in Dow Inc. and Microsoft pulled the index higher.
10:12 a.m. ET: Nasdaq turns positive as tech stocks jump
The Nasdaq pushed into positive territory Thursday morning as shares of tech heavyweights including Amazon, Apple, Tesla, Microsoft and Facebook all rose.
Emily McCormickJavier E. David Nishant Mohan