Dow, S&P fall as US-China tensions rise over coronavirus crisis

U.S. equity markets ended the session mixed as investors took in record job losses amid speculation tensions are rising between the U.S. and China over Beijing's handling of the coronavirus crisis.

President Trump, answering a question at the White House, signaled China "may or may not" make good on certain terms of the phase one trade deal.

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Selling picked up in the final hour of trading with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling over 218 points, oo 0.91 percent, while the S&P 500 slipped 0.70 percent. The declines were the first of the week for both indexes. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite held onto modest gains of 0.51 percent.

More sobering economic data also dented sentiment. The ADP national employment report released Wednesday morning showed U.S. companies cut 20.2 million jobs in April as the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to close at least temporarily. The U.S. Labor Department report for the same period, which includes public-sector jobs, is due Friday morning.

As the losses mount, states are turning their attention to reopening their economies. Arkansas allowed barber shops, tattoo parlors and other businesses to resume operations on Wednesday while Kentucky permitted outpatient surgeries.

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It’s “possible” the death toll from COVID-19 will increase as restrictions are lifted, President Trump said on Tuesday evening, but “we have to get our country open.”

Looking at stocks, Walt Disney Co. earned $460 million in its fiscal second quarter, down 92 percent from a year ago, as its parks and live entertainment business took a $1 billion hit from closures due to COVID-19.

CVS Health Co.’s first-quarter profit spiked 41 percent to $2.01 billion as pharmacy and front-store sales surged 9.3 percent and 8 percent, respectively, at locations open at least a year.

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General Motors earned $294 million as the automaker took a $1.4 billion hit from disruptions caused by COVID-19.

Beyond Meat swung to a first-quarter profit of $1.8 million, up from a loss of $6.6 million a year ago, as "food-at-home" demand drove sales 141 percent higher.

Video-game makers Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts both beat on top- and bottom-line results as “stay-at-home” orders drove a surge in demand.

Elsewhere, retailer Nordstrom will permanently shutter 16 locations when stores reopen from closures forced by COVID-19.


Traders work during the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 17, 2020 at Wall Street in New York City. (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)

In commodities, West Texas Intermediate crude oil fell, the  first loss in six days, trading down 2.3 percent at $23.99 a barrel. Meanwhile, gold slipped 1.19 percent to $1,684 an ounce.

U.S. Treasurys slipped, causing the yield on the 10-year note to climb to 0.709 percent.

In Europe, Britain’s FTSE rallied 0.07 percent, while Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC slipped 1.15 percent and 1.11 percent, respectively.

Asian markets gained, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng climbing 1.13 percent and China’s Shanghai Composite adding 0.63 percent. Japan’s Nikkei remained closed for holiday.

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