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Before The Bell - It has been a volatile week on Wall Street thus far, with moderate gains posted on Monday and Tuesday and a big setback on Wednesday before an uneven session ended on a high note yesterday. As for these up-and-down moves, the week started out with some optimism expressed about the accelerating pace of business reopening endeavors. By Wednesday, however, escalating rates of COVID-19 infections had turned the tide and in that one session alone, the Dow Jones Industrial Average would plummet by 710 points, the largest single-session setback in two weeks.

Then, yesterday, the early moves were lower, as well, with the blue chips quickly going out to a 200-point loss. Among the issues affecting trading, was a report of a revised, but unchanged, reading on first-quarter GDP featuring a drop of 5.0%. Also, released, were figures showing a jump in orders for durable goods in May following sharp declines in that category in March and April. Finally, weekly jobless claims statistics were issued showing an increase of 1.48 million filings. That was above expectations.

Meantime, these major data points did little to reverse the early moderate selling. However, when news came out that regulators had decided to make it easier on banks, by an easing of the so-called Volcker rule, which had sharply curtailed banks from investing their own or depositor's money in the financial markets, stocks firmed up. However, after the markets closed, the Federal Reserve released the results of its stress tests and investors did not like what they heard, in that there would be no buybacks, but caps on dividends.

That after-market news caused some late-selling in the bank stocks after a big rise in such equities earlier in the day. As to the stock market during the regular session, the indexes held near the unchanged line until the final hour of trading, when the key indexes all jumped on bullish expectations for the stress tests. All told, the Dow would race ahead by 300 points at the close, while formidable gains of 33 points and 108 points, respectively, would be tallied by the S&P 500 Index and the NASDAQ.

Looking ahead now to the week's final trading session, investors likely will be looking at the latest statistics on COVID-19, with now one state after another, especially along the nation's southern tier, reporting worrisome surges in the infections. Some states, such as Texas, are now pausing its reopening efforts. It would seem that the second-half economic recovery will be an uneven affair rather than the sharp upturn that some have been expecting. That could be a bad omen for corporate profits.

Finally, after yesterday's late market surge and some choppiness in the early going last evening, the equity futures now are pointing to a mixed-to-higher opening once trading resumes. – Harvey S. Katz, CFA


At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.