Dow falls 200 points as US jobs data signals recession

US stocks open with mild losses as investors grasp for hope and clarity but expect more losses, layoffs and defaults.

Wall Street
Wall Street opened with mild losses on Friday as the March jobs report further confirmed that the longest stretch of job creation in American history has ended [File: Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

United States stocks opened lower on Friday as the coronavirus brought the longest US employment expansion on record to an abrupt halt, and analysts warning of far worse carnage ahead.  

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down about 200 points, more than 1 percent, in mid-morning trading in New York. The broader S&P 500 Index – a proxy for US retirement and college savings plans – was down 0.72 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index was down 0.64 percent.

Data collected mostly from the first half of March showed the US economy lost 701,000 jobs last month,  ending 113 straight months of job growth, and validating the view of many economists that the US is already in a recession.

The information collected before stay-at-home orders were doled out still pales in comparison to the jaw-dropping 10 million number of Americans who sought unemployment benefits in the two weeks ending March 28.

Walt Disney Co said on Thursday it would furlough some US employees this month, while sources said luxury retailer Neiman Marcus was stepping up preparations to seek bankruptcy protection. Shares of Disney were down 2.7 percent.

Economists have slashed their forecasts for US economic growth with Morgan Stanley now expecting a 38 percent contraction in the second quarter.

In one of the fastest ever turns to a bear market, US stocks have lost $7 trillion in market value since mid-February as the coronavirus spreads rapidly, forcing millions of people to stay indoors and pushing entire sectors of the economy to the brink of collapse.

The S&P 500 has lost about a quarter of its value from its recent all-time high despite a brief lift from trillions of dollars in fiscal and monetary stimulus, and analysts foresee further declines heading into the quarterly earnings season.

US President Donald Trump will meet with oil and energy executives on Friday to discuss ways to help the nation’s ailing energy sector that has been clobbered by an historic plunge in oil prices.   

On Thursday, energy stocks shot up as hopes were buoyed for a breakthrough in the Saudi-Russian oil prices war. 

Shares of Tesla Inc were up 7.32 percent after the electric car maker said production and deliveries of its Model Y sport utility vehicle were before schedule, as it delivered the highest number of vehicles in any first quarter to date.

Source: Reuters