U.S. stock indexes veered broadly lower in afternoon trading Thursday, giving back some of their gains after a solid rally a day earlier.
The S&P 500 was down 0.6% in choppy choppy trading as investors weighed more dismal news about the economic fallout from the coronavirus epidemic and the latest buildup of tensions between the U.S. and China. Bond yields were mixed. Oil prices rose.
The Labor Department said more than 2.4 million people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week in the latest wave of layoffs from the outbreak. That brings the running total of Americans who have lost their jobs in the two months since the coronavirus led to a near shutdown of the economy to 38.6 million.
Meanwhile, investors had an eye on the latest flareup in tensions between Washington and Beijing. The White House issued a report attacking China’s economic and military policies, and its human rights violations. The report expands on President Donald Trump’s get-tough rhetoric that he hopes will resonate with voters angry about China’s handling of the disease outbreak.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 87 points, or 0.4%, to 24,489. The Nasdaq composite slid 0.7%. Small-company stocks, which have notched the biggest gains this week, rose. The Russell 2000 index gained 0.4%.
Technology and health care stocks took some of the heaviest losses. Only industrial sector companies held onto gains. Homebuilders were broadly higher.
Wall Street is on track to recoup its losses from last week amid fresh hopes for a U.S. economic recovery in the second half of the year and optimism about a potential vaccine for COVID-19. A strong rally on Monday reversed all of the market’s losses for the month. The index is still down about 11.5% from its all-time high in February.
Investors are betting that the economy and corporate profits will begin to recover from the coronavirus pandemic as the U.S. and countries around the world slowly open up again. However, concerns remain that the relaxing of stay-at-home mandates and the reopening of businesses could lead to another surge in infections, potentially ushering in another wave of shutdowns.
Oil prices headed higher for the sixth day in a row. Benchmark U.S. crude oil was up 0.6%, to $33.69 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, was up 0.3%, to $35.85 a barrel.
Bonds yields were mixed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, a benchmark for interest rates on many consumer loans, fell to 0.67% from 0.68% late Wednesday.
European stock indexes were broadly lower after shedding some gains. Asian stock markets finished lower.