Trump tweeted news of his test results just hours after the White House announced that senior aide Hope Hicks had come down with the virus after traveling with the president several times this week. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Trump tests positive for coronavirus; stocks, oil prices sink

Associated Press Oct 2, 2020
Trump tweeted news of his test results just hours after the White House announced that senior aide Hope Hicks had come down with the virus after traveling with the president several times this week. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. stock futures and Asian shares fell Friday after President Donald Trump said he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The future contracts for both the S&P 500 and the Dow industrials dropped nearly 2% but were trading 1.2% lower several hours later. Oil prices tumbled about 3%.

Trump tweeted news of his test results just hours after the White House announced that senior aide Hope Hicks had come down with the virus after traveling with the president several times this week.

The positive test reading for the leader of the world’s largest economy heaps uncertainty onto a growing pile of unknowns investors are grappling with, first among them how it might affect the Nov. 3 election and American policies on trade, tariffs and many other issues beyond then.

“To say this potentially could be a big deal is an understatement,” Rabobank said in a commentary. “Anyway, everything now takes a backseat to the latest incredible twist in this U.S. election campaign.”

A statement issued by Trump’s doctor saying both he and his wife were well and that he would continue his duties appeared to calm the markets’ reaction.

Germany’s DAX gave up 0.6% to 12,649.29 and the CAC 40 in Paris lost 0.6% to 4,796.97. Britain’s FTSE 100 slipped 0.5% to 5,850.86.

Trading in Asia was thin, with markets in Shanghai and Hong Kong closed. The Nikkei 225 index shed strong early gains, losing 0.7% to 23,029.90 after the Tokyo Stock Exchange resumed trading following an all day outage due to a technical failure.

Reports that the Japanese government is preparing new stimulus measures to help the economy recover from a prolonged downturn worsened by the coronavirus pandemic provided only a temporary lift. Prices fell further after Trump’s announcement.

Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 slipped 1.4% to 5,791.50. Shares in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia also fell.

On Thursday, the benchmark S&P 500 ended the day 0.5% higher, at 3,380.80, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.1% to 27,816.90 and the Nasdaq composite rose 1.4% to 11,326.51, as big tech-oriented stocks propped up the market, much as they have through the pandemic.

Such big swings have become routine as investors assess chances of a deal on Capitol Hill to send more cash to Americans, restore jobless benefits for laid-off workers and deliver assistance to airlines and other industries hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continued their talks on Thursday, but no breakthrough arrived before stock trading ended on Wall Street. Instead, there were only hopes that were periodically raised and dashed as government officials took turns criticizing each other.

“Things remain fluid; we all know what is at stake if this deal does not go through before markets sundown, it is unlikely to be pretty ugly,” Stephen Innes of Axi said in a commentary.

Beyond potential political developments, investors will be watching for job figures due out Friday. Data released Thursday painted a mixed picture for the economy, with one report showing the number of workers filing for unemployment benefits last week fell to 837,000 from 873,000. That was less than economists expected, but incredibly high compared with before the pandemic.

With airlines and other major companies announcing layoffs and furloughs, another round of economic aid from Congress is seen as crucial. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have worked effectively together in the past, helping to drive through the previous economic rescue approved by Congress in March. But the country’s deepening partisan divide has stymied progress, with the presidential election only about a month away.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury was steady at 0.67%.

U.S. benchmark crude lost $1.12 to $37.60 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gave up $1.50 to $38.72 on Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, lost $1.20 to $39.73 per barrel.

The dollar weakened to 105.21 Japanese yen from 105.54 yen. The euro weakened to $1.1724 from $1.1747.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

New COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. are on the rise. How are Americans reacting?

Johns Hopkins University reports the seven-day average of new cases hit 68,767 on Sunday  — a record — eclipsing the previous record hit in late July during the second, summer wave of infection. A funny thing is happening with consumers though: Even as COVID-19 cases rise, Americans don’t appear to be shying away from stepping indoors to shop or eat or exercise. Morning Consult asked consumers how comfortable they feel going out to eat, to the shopping mall or on a vacation. And their willingness has been rising. Surveys find consumers’ attitudes vary by age and income, and by political affiliation, said Chris Jackson, who heads up polling at Ipsos.

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

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