NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are swinging between gains and losses in early trading on Wall Street Thursday, but the moves are more subdued than the wild jabs that have dominated recent weeks. At least for now.
The S&P 500 was up 0.6% in morning trading after trimming an earlier loss of 3.3%. That would be a notable change in normal times, but the index has had eight straight days where it swung up or down between 4.9% and 12%.
Markets have been so volatile because investors are weighing the increasing likelihood of a recession on one hand against huge, emergency efforts by global authorities to support the economy on the other. Markets got more of each on Thursday.
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits jumped by 70,000 last week, more than economists expected, in one of the first signs of layoffs sweeping across the country. Wide swaths of the economy are grinding closer to a standstill, from the travel industry to restaurants, as authorities ask Americans to stay home to slow the spread of the virus. Another weak manufacturing report, this time in the mid-Atlantic region, added to the worries.
But central banks in Europe and the United States both also announced their latest efforts to support financial markets and the economy. The European Central Bank launched an expanded program to buy up to 750 billion euros ($820 billion) in bonds to support the economy
The Fed unveiled measures to support money-market funds and the borrowing of dollars as investors in markets worldwide rush to build up dollars and cash. The dash for cash has strained markets around the world, and sellers of even high-quality bonds say they're having difficulty finding buyers at reasonable prices for how much they want to sell. Many of the Fed's moves, which are getting revived after being used in the 2008 financial crisis, are aimed at smoothing out operations in such markets.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 55 points, or 0.3%, to 19,953 after erasing an earlier loss of 721 points. The Nasdaq was up 2.3%, as of 10:13 a.m. Eastern time. The S&P 500, which drives movements for most 401(k) accounts more than other indexes, is down nearly 30% since its record last month and close to its lowest point since late 2018.
European stocks rose early in their trading day, but the gains dissipated and major indexes were mostly lower. Asian markets also dropped following the brutal 5.1% loss for U.S. stocks the prior day.
Ultimately, investors say they need to see the number of new infections stop accelerating for the market’s extreme volatility to ease.
The total number of known infections has topped 220,000 worldwide, including nearly 85,000 people who had recovered. The death toll has crept toward 10,000.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and those with mild illness recover in about two weeks. Severe illness including pneumonia can occur, especially in the elderly and people with existing health problems, and recovery could take six weeks in such cases.