U.S. stocks are trading sharply lower Friday afternoon, as investors weigh April jobs data amid heightened stagflation fears, after the biggest daily drop since 2020 on Thursday.
How are stock-index futures trading?
The Dow Jones Industrial Average
fell nearly 357 points, or 1.1%, to 32,641, but off its session low.
The S&P 500
was down almost 50 points, or 1.2%, at around 4,097.
The Nasdaq Composite
lost 222 points, or 1.8%, to trade at 12,095.
On Thursday, the Dow industrials slumped 1,063.09 points, or 3.1%, its worst daily percentage drop since Oct. 28, 2020, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The S&P 500 fell 3.6%, while the Nasdaq Composite tumbled 5% for its worst daily percentage fall since June 11, 2020.
What’s driving markets?
Major U.S. stock benchmarks were down Friday afternoon and heading for weekly losses after booking big gains earlier in the week.
“It’s been a confusing and erratic market, to say the least, this week,” said Keith Lerner, co-chief investment officer at Truist Advisory Services, in a phone interview Friday. “We have somewhat of a fickle market right now.”
The big gains in Wednesday’s relief rally, which was sparked by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s remarks that a large interest rate hike of 75 basis points was not being actively considered by the Fed, have been erased amid concerns the central bank may not be doing enough to bring inflation under control, according to Lerner. Investors are worried that inflation will stay at an elevated level, forcing the Fed to become more aggressive in a slowing economy, he said.
But Friday’s employment report should “ease some concerns” that a recession may be looming, according to Lerner, who said he is not expecting a recession in the next 12 months. Even if the economy is slowing, “at least we have some momentum.”
The U.S. economy added 428,000 new jobs in April, according to a report Friday from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But an acute labor shortage showed little improvement last month, which could underline worries about inflation already running its hottest in 40 years. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast 400,000 new jobs.
The unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.6%, the government said Friday, just above a 54-year low. Average hourly earnings cooled, rising 0.3% versus expectations for a 0.4% increase.
The jobs report “has something for everyone…steady job gains supporting economic growth with less wage pressure, possibly easing inflation fears,” said John Lynch, chief Investment officer for Comerica Wealth Management.
“Investors need confidence that the Fed won’t raise too aggressively and topple the economy into recession in their fight against inflation. Today’s report is balanced and may prove to dampen the extreme volatility of recent days,” he wrote.
Investors will also hear Friday from New York Fed President John Williams, and after the market close, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard and Fed Gov. Chris Waller.
Major stock market indexes are pace to end the week with small losses, which belies volatile action seen in recent days.
“As we approach intraday lows for the year, keep plenty of powder dry and build a list of quality company opportunities to add when the bottom comes,” said Louis Navellier, founder of Navellier & Associates, in a Friday note. “Companies with double-digit earnings growth remain the only way to “beat” current inflation expectations, when to step in remains uncertain.”
A sharp drop in first-quarter U.S. productivity data and a rise in unit labor costs published Thursday were also cited as a factor in the market’s drop that day, underlining stagflation fears. That rubs against the assertion by Powell and other senior Fed officials that they can achieve a so-called soft landing — lowering inflation without bringing economic growth to a grinding halt.
“What’s dangerous about yesterday’s huge market slump is that there must be an element of doubting the ability of there to be an effective ‘Fed Put’ in this cycle following a 30-40 year period where the central bank has almost always been able to come to the market’s rescue,” said a team of Deutsche Bank strategists led by Jim Reid.
Meanwhile, yields on 10- and 30-year Treasury bonds hovered at levels last seen in 2018, which they reached Thursday as stocks plunged. The 10-year yield
was up 5 basis points at 3.11% on Friday afternoon.
“Rising rates are pressuring stocks,” said Truist’s Lerner.
Which companies are in focus?
Shares of Zillow Group Inc.
fell 3.7% after the company blew past revenue forecasts but delivered a disappointing forecast late Thursday that reflected uncertainty facing the real-estate sector.
Shares of Cloudfare Inc.
were down 17% after the cybersecurity company’s quarterly results slightly beat Wall Street expectations, but its bottom-line forecast for the current quarter indicated a possible miss in its next report.
How are other assets trading?
The ICE U.S. Dollar Index,
a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, fell 0.2%.
West Texas Intermediate crude for June delivery
rose 1.2% to $109.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
was down 1.3% at $35,943.
—Barbara Kollmeyer contributed to this report.