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Stocks pared overnight losses and opened near the flat line Friday morning after Gilead Sciences announced that its remdesivir treatment reduced the risk of death for Covid-19 patients, based on new data from the company. Gilead shares opened higher by about 2%.
Still, virus fears lingered in both the US and abroad. Hong Kong said it was set to close schools again starting on Monday, following a new batch of infections in the region. Mexico saw a record number of new cases to overtake Spain – once a global epicenter of the virus – in the number of overall cases. Major equity indices in Asia closed out Friday’s session lower.
Earlier signs that the outbreak was worsening still more in the South and West further stoked a further risk-off mood in markets. California, Florida and Texas each posted record one-day new coronavirus deaths as of Thursday. Crude oil prices (CL=F) steadied after posting their biggest drop in two weeks on Thursday at more than 3%. Investors piled into the relative safety of the bond market, and the benchmark 10-year yield fell to the lowest level since mid-April Friday morning.
A day earlier, the S&P 500 and Dow closed out Thursday’s session lower, while the Nasdaq Composite powered to yet another record high. Each of Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Microsoft hit record closing levels again on Thursday, with investors crowding further into tech and software names viewed as most likely to recover strongly in the wake of the pandemic.
The recent surge in tech shares widened the yawning gap in performance between sectors weighed heavily in tech stocks, and those without. The S&P 500’s information technology and consumer discretionary sectors – the latter of which includes Amazon – have each rallied well over 10% since June 1, versus a 3% gain in the broader market as of Thursday’s close. The energy sector has fallen 11.7% since June 1, and the utilities and financials sectors have dropped 5.6% and 3.9%, respectively.
“FAANG stocks went through a stress test that is greater than anything we will see in five lifetimes,” Tom Lee, Fundstrat global advisors managing partner and head of research, told Yahoo Finance on Thursday. FAANG names include Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google parent Alphabet.
“They survived the Great Depression, and they actually grew their business, their revenues,” he added, referring to the period marking the economic nadir spurred by the pandemic. “And I think that means that investors realize that the value of their cash flow is that much more valuable. I think it’s a re-rating, and I think it’s a permanent re-rate. And that’s why they’ve blown past their prior highs.”
Big banks stocks including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo rose after lagging during Thursday’s session. Bloomberg reported that Wells Fargo was planning to cut thousands of jobs this year, which would put the bank among a growing list of firms slashing their workforces to pare down costs during the pandemic. Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), Harley-Davidson (HOG), Nielsen (NLSN) and United Airlines (UAL) have each announced planned job cuts earlier this week.
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