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Stocks were mixed on Friday, as growing concerns over nationwide COVID-19 lockdowns in Europe raised fears about new restrictions beyond the continent.
Both the Dow and the S&P 500 fell after the opening bell, giving up early pre-market gains, but the Nasdaq composite added 0.2%, bolstered by rallying technology shares.
Markets were unsettled after the Austrian government announced a full lockdown starting on Monday, in response to cases of COVID-19 surging in Europe. The lockdown will include both those vaccinated and unvaccinated, it will last for 10 days minimum, but could be extended for 10 days further.
“The news is hitting European markets hard this morning as fears mount that the virus and restrictions will spread across the continent again,” said Jim Reid, chief economist at Deutsche Bank, adding that “the curveball might be the U.S.” given lower rates of vaccination domestically than in Europe.
“So although all the headlines are in Europe at the moment, will the U.S. be more vulnerable than many European countries over the course of the full winter? Recent history suggests the U.S. have a higher bar for economic restrictions related to covid but it also has a lower vaccination rate than their European peers,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Nasdaq was boosted by a jump in stocks associated with the “stay-at-home” trade that characterized much of 2020. Treasury yields, which have jumped in response to rising inflation fears, retreated early Friday as investors flocked to safe-haven assets. Brent crude (CL=F) sank by over 3%, reflecting jitters that lockdowns will curb energy demand.
There is no economic data on the calendar on Friday, however investors will be keeping a close eye on Washington, where the House is expected to pass President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” bill. The bill lays out the administration’s plans to spend $1.85 trillion on education, healthcare and the climate.
Also in focus for the markets is Biden’s Federal Reserve chair nomination. Biden told reporters on Tuesday to expect the announcement of a nominee for Fed chair in “the next four days.” The White House has not indicated which way it is leaning, but market participants see two leading options: the reappointment of current chair Jerome Powell, or the elevation of Fed Governor Lael Brainard.
“The market so far is believing that it will be Powell again, but any sort of a change would mean that they want to hear a reiteration of the monetary policy and forward expectations,” Sonali Pier, Pimco’s Managing Director and Portfolio Manager, told Yahoo Finance Live on Thursday.
“[That means] tapering, being at a pace of about $10 billion in treasuries, $5 billion in agency MBS, then thereafter seeing rate hikes but not a significant shift to be more hawkish,” Pier added.
With earnings season ongoing, Foot locker (FL) shares lost ground Friday, even after the athletic shoe and apparel retailer said it expects global supply-chain issues to persist through this quarter. Intuit (INTU) shares soared by over 12% after the financial-software company’s top and bottom lines both beat analysts’ expectations, and hiked its full-year revenue guidance for 2021 to $1 billion.
9:30 a.m. ET: Stocks mixed, tech leads Nasdaq higher
Here’s where markets were trading shortly after market open on Friday:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): -6.33 (-0.13%) to 4,698.21
Dow (^DJI): -214.78 (-0.60%) to 35,656.17
Nasdaq (^IXIC): +39.95 (+0.28%) to 16038.10
Crude (CL=F): -$1.51 (-1.91%) to $77.50 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): -$4.20 (-0.23%) to $1,857.20 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): unchanged to yield 1.6040%
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