Stocks closed at their highest levels since at least March, ending Friday’s volatile session mostly higher after President Donald Trump announced retaliatory measures against China that were less negative for markets as some had feared.
With the coronavirus pandemic still a major factor for investors, major benchmarks have bounced back strongly from the multi-year lows reached in March as the COVID-19 crisis tightened its grip on the global economy. The S&P 500, Dow and Nasdaq each ended at their highest level since March, and ended May with a second straight monthly advance. Blue-chip stocks were up about 4% for the month, while tech shares outperformed with a more than 6% gain.
In a press conference Friday afternoon, Trump escalated an ongoing war of words between the world’s two largest economies.
He announced the U.S. was terminating its relationship with the World Health Organization, which he blasted as being controlled by China, and winding down preferential trade for Hong Kong as Beijing moves to squeeze the region’s historical autonomy. Trump also suggested the U.S. would take a harder look at Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges.
The remarks, while consistent with multiple issues bedeviling the two countries, affirmed measures that most market participants had already expected. China on Thursday approved a draft decision for new national security legislation that would impose on freedoms in Hong Kong, in a move widely viewed as encroaching on the autonomy of the region.
Some analysts maintained that punitive measures in the form of increased tariffs – a major driver of stock market volatility last year – are unlikely to occur in the near-term, given the COVID-19 pandemic’s stranglehold on the global economy. On Friday, new data revealed that personal spending dropped by a record 13.6% in April, while the savings rate jumped by a record 33%, a testament to consumers’ unwillingness to spend during the outbreak.
“Further tariff increases look less likely than some of these other measures, in our view. While U.S. exports to China have so far fallen well short of the goals in the Phase 1 agreement, imposing additional tariffs on US consumers in the midst of a recession ahead of the presidential election still appears to carry more political risks than benefits,” Goldman Sachs analysts Alec Phillips and Andrew Tilton said in a note Thursday.
“We anticipate that Chinese policymakers would generally react proportionately or less-than proportionately to any further US actions,” Phillips and Tilton said. “Recent U.S. rhetoric on the virus and trade deal has been met mainly with rhetoric in return, rather than discrete policy actions.”
Meanwhile shares of Twitter fell in Friday’s session, after Trump a day earlier signed an executive order aimed at limiting legal protections federal laws offer social media platforms, following a public spat with the site over its decision to fact-check one of Trump’s assertions.
The fight intensified on Friday after Twitter flagged one of the president’s posts as potentially inciting violence — causing him to lash out anew, accusing the platform of siding with China and his Democratic opponents.
4:02 p.m. ET: Stocks end mostly higher, closing out second straight monthly gain
Here’s where the three major indices settled at the end of regular trading Friday:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): +14.58 points (+0.48%) to 3,044.31
Dow (^DJI): -17.53 points (-0.07%) to 25,383.11
Nasdaq (^IXIC): +120.88 points (+1.29%) to 9,489.87
2:59 p.m. ET: Trump terminating relationship with World Health Organization, will remove special exemptions for Hong Kong
President Donald Trump spoke for about 10 minutes during his press conference in the Rose Garden in Washington, D.C. Friday afternoon, without taking questions.
Here were the main takeaways from the remarks:
Trump said he will be “terminating our relationship with the WHO [World Health Organization] and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs.” Earlier in his remarks, Trump alleged that China “has total control over the World Health Organization” despite paying just a fraction to the organization of what the U.S. has paid into it.
Trump is creating a working group to study Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges. He added: “Investment firms should not be subjecting their clients to the hidden and undue risks associated with Chinese companies that do not play by the same rules. Americans are entitled to fairness and integrity.”
Trump is directing the administration to remove Hong Kong’s preferential status with the U.S., in the wake of China’s imposition of new national security standards which he said have eroded Hong Kong’s freedoms. This will include new State Department travel safety designations for Hong Kong.
2:49 p.m. ET: Trump press conference on China begins
President Donald Trump began his appearance in the Rose Garden in Washington, D.C., alongside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.
“The Chinese government has continually violated tis promises and so many other nations. These plain facts cannot be overlooked or swept aside,” Trump said in opening remarks. “The world is now suffering as a result of the malfeasance of the Chinese government. China’s cover-up of the Wuhan virus allowed the disease to spread all over the world, instigating a global pandemic that has caused more than 100,000 American lives.”
2:38 p.m. ET: US crude oil posts best month on record
Front contracts for US West Texas intermediate crude oil rose 5.3% to an about three-month high of $35.49 per barrel, as hopes that states and countries reopening their economies would stoke energy demand.
For the month of May, WTI crude oil prices surged 62% for their best month on record, recovering sharply from a mid-April slide that sent front contracts into negative territory for the first time in history.
2:07 p.m. ET: New York City targets June 8 reopening date
New York City is expected to kick off the first phase of its reopening process June 8, Governor Andrew Cuomo said during his daily news briefing Friday. This comes as a number of other regions throughout the state already began their initial phases of the reopening process, having been less hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
New York state’s daily death count hit a new low of 67 as of Thursday, Cuomo said.
12:54 p.m. ET: Stocks hold lower ahead of Trump press conference on China
Here were the main moves in markets, as of 12:54 p.m. ET:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): -24.06 points (-0.79%) to 3,005.67
Dow (^DJI): -296.37 points (-1.17%) to 25,104.27
Nasdaq (^IXIC): -19.04 points (-0.2%) to 9,349.99
Crude (CL=F): -$0.37 (-1.10%) to $33.34 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): +$22.70 (+1.31%) to $1,751.00 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -4.6 bps to yield 0.659%
11:30 a.m. ET: Powell says Fed’s Main Street Lending Facility to begin loans in a few days
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said on Friday that the central bank was closing in on making its first loans as part of its Main Street lending facility, which was first announced in March as a means of helping boost liquidity to companies amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re days away” from issuing the first loans under the program, Powell said during a virtual appearance with Princeton economist Alan Blinder.
10:00 a.m. ET: Consumer sentiment stabilizes: U. Michigan
Consumer sentiment ticked up just slightly in May from April, according to the University of Michigan’s closely watched Surveys of Consumers.
The headline consumer sentiment index rose to 72.3 in the final print on the May survey, from 71.8 in April. This was down sharply from May 2019’s reading of 100.0.
A subindex tracking consumers’ assessments of current conditions improved more notably to 82.3 from 74.3. However, a subindex tracking consumer expectations fell further to 65.9 from 70.1.
“Consumer sentiment has remained largely unchanged during the past two months, with the final May estimate just a half index point above the April reading,” Richard Curtin, Surveys of Consumers chief economist, said in a statement.
“The CARES relief checks and higher unemployment payments have helped to stem economic hardship, but those programs have not acted to stimulate discretionary spending due to uncertainty about the future course of the pandemic,” he added. “It should not be surprising that a growing number of consumers expected the economy to improve from its recent standstill, or that the majority still thought conditions in the economy would remain unfavorable in the year ahead.”
9:31 a.m. ET: Stocks open mostly lower
Here were the main moves in markets as of 9:31 a.m. ET:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): -9.76 points (-0.32%) to 3,019.97
Dow (^DJI): -145.68 points (-0.57%) to 25,254.96
Nasdaq (^IXIC): +3.5 points (+0.04%) to 9,373.67
Crude (CL=F): -$0.51 (-1.51%) to $33.20 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): +$12.30 (+0.71%) to $1,740.60 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -3.6 bps to yield 0.669%
8:33 a.m. ET: Personal savings rate jumps by a record in April
The U.S. personal savings rate surged by a record 33% in April, as consumers held off on making purchases and drove consumption down at a record pace for the month, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
In March, the personal savings rate, which measures savings as a percentage of disposable personal income, rose 12.7%.
8:31 a.m. ET: Personal income unexpectedly rises in April, but spending falls by a record
Personal income unexpectedly jumped 10.5% in April, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) said Friday in its monthly report. Consensus economists had expected a 5.9% drop in personal income for the month, according to Bloomberg data, following a 2.2% drop in income in March.
“The increase in personal income in April primarily reflected an increase in government social benefits to persons as payments were made to individuals from federal economic recovery programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the BEA said in a statement.
Personal spending, however, extended March’s slide. Spending fell 13.6% in April, or worse than the 12.8% decline expected, following the prior month’s 5.9% decline. April’s decline marked a record in Commerce Department data going back to 1959.
Core personal consumption expenditures – which serve as the Federal Reserve’s preferred gauge of underlying inflation trends and strips out volatile categories including food and energy – rose just 1.0% in April over last year, versus the 1.1% gain expected. Core PCE rose 1.7% in March.
7:15 a.m. ET Friday: Stock futures fall as investors monitor U.S.-China tensions
Here were the main moves in markets, as of 7:15 a.m. ET:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,031.25, down 6.75 points (-0.22%)
Dow futures (YM=F): 25,370.00, down 87 points (-0.34%)
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 9,441.75, down 18.5 points (-0.2%)
Crude (CL=F): -$0.99 (-2.94%) to $32.72 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): +$13.40 (+0.78%) to $1,741.70 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -3.6 bps to yield 0.669%
7:10 a.m. ET: Trump assails Twitter for ‘lies & propaganda’
President Donald Trump posted an attack of Twitter in a tweet Friday morning, adding to criticisms of the platform after earlier this week having several of his Twitter posts on mail-in voting designated with a fact-checking label.
“This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth,’” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said earlier of the decision. “Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves. More transparency from us is critical so folks can clearly see the why behind our actions.”
6:05 p.m. ET Thursday: Stock futures tick down at the open
Here were the main moves at the start of the overnight session for U.S. equity futures, as of 6:02 p.m. ET:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,034.50, down 3.5 points (-0.12%)
Dow futures (YM=F): 25,430.00, down 27 points (-0.11%)
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 9,450.00, down 10.25 points (-0.11%)