Before The Bell - After a mixed-to-lower session on Wednesday, which effectively ended Wall Street's three-day winning streak, the stock market began the week's penultimate trading session with generally modest losses. Once again, the NASDAQ was an outlier, gaining ground steadily, if modestly, during the morning on some strength in technology. On the other hand, there generally was some hesitancy over rising COVID-19 cases. Another factor in the early hours yesterday were worries after another disarmingly high total of weekly jobless filings.
Specifically, jobless claims hit 1.5 million in the latest week, which was just below the previous seven-day mark, but was also above consensus of 1.2 million. In addition, there was another surge of COVID-19 cases worldwide. Furthermore, investors were worried that several states, in particular Florida, Texas, and Arizona, have seen a spike in new infections after accelerated reopening efforts. Meanwhile, China is grappling with its worst outbreak of this disease since the initial one in Wuhan.
What's more, the belief that the global economy will recover swiftly in the third quarter is now less certain. In fact, as businesses reopen, the case for a second wave of the coronavirus striking, or perhaps a more extended first wave, grows. That, plus the fact that an additional 1.5 million unemployment claims were filed in the last week, put investors on edge to a certain degree, which also hurt stocks. So, equities meandered about for the morning and into the first part of the afternoon. Things would worsen a bit as we moved along.
Indeed, as we hit the final hour, the Dow Jones Industrial Average would fall by close to 200 points for a time. The blue chips would only make a stand during the final minutes of trading, taking a 170-point loss and narrowing the closing deficit to just 40 points. The S&P 500, also off for much of the day, would nudge into the green by the final bell, adding two points in all, while the NASDAQ, up almost throughout the day, would finish ahead by 33 points. All in all, it was a day for largely marking time.
After the close yesterday, we saw that shares in Asia pushed ahead modestly, as did U.S. futures in evening trade. As we now look out to a new day, the early read on the futures is higher still, pointing to another strong opening this morning. Finally, in a key report released yesterday, the Leading Economic Indicators showed a 2.8% increase during May after plummeting in April when it fell 6.1%. The April setback came on the heels of a bigger drop in March. This latest metric suggests that the economy is starting to recover after the COVID-19 lockdowns. - Harvey S. Katz, CFA