Market Snapshot: Dow skids lower as stocks quickly shed Friday opening gains, while investors await traction on coronavirus stimulus package

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U.S. stock indexes turned mostly lower early Friday after an opening bounce, as investors weighed the acceleration of the global death toll due to COVID-19 against efforts by governments and central banks to contain the economic impact of the pandemic.

How are major benchmarks performing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.37%  were down 172 points, or 0.8%, lower at 19,915, while those for the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.05% were at 2,382, after skidding 21 points, or 0.9%. Meanwhile, Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +1.21% were up 33 points to reach 7,186, a rise of 0.5%.

On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 188.27 points, or 1%, to 20,081.19. The S&P 500 rose 0.5%, or 11.29 points, to close at 2,409.39. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 160.73 points, or 2.3% to end the session at 7,150.58.

For the week, the Dow is on track for a 13.4% weekly decline, the S&P 500 was set to fall 11.13% on the week, while the Nasdaq was looking at a 9.2% weekly drop, as of Thursday’s close.

What’s driving the market?

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., were hurrying to assemble a second bailout package to help lessen the current and anticipated economic pain from the pandemic that has claimed more than 10,000 lives around the world.

“It would appear all the various measures taken by governments and central banks recently is finally calming the markets down,” wrote David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets U.K., in daily research note.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate Majority Leader, on Thursday introduced a stimulus package that could top $1 trillion and would include direct payments of $1,200 for individuals and with married couples eligible to for $2,400, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The proposal comes as reports show that jobless claims could soar to more than 2 million by next week, according to a research report analysts at Goldman Sachs.

A Thursday a report on claims from those seeking unemployment benefits showed that 281,000 Americans filed for unemployment insurance for the first time in the March 14 week, the highest since 2017.

Attempts to soften the blow to businesses and individuals also come as California on Thursday ordered its roughly 40 million residents to remain at home to help limit the spread of the pathogen. California Gov. Gavin Newsom estimated that more than half of the Golden State’s residents will be infected by COVID-19 over an eight-week period.

The stockmarket is also grappling with Friday’s “quadruple witching” options expiration day which tends to add to market volatility and trading volumes.

On Wednesday, the Dow closed below 20,000 for the first time since February 2017. Investors hope that level was the bottom and that the stock market can recover as virus cases peak in the coming months and government aid packages take effect. The Dow remains 32% below its all-time high level from February, while the S&P 500 is 29% below its high.

Looking ahead, investors await a report on U.S. existing home sales, which are expected to take a hit due to expanding lock downs across the nation, even though the Federal Reserve’s policy interest rate is at its lowest level since the 2008 financial crisis, at a range between 0% and 0.25%.

See: Mortgage rates surge to highest level since January even though the Fed just brought interest rates to 0%

How are other markets trading?

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, -12.94% fell 12 basis points to 1% on Thursday.

West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. gauge of oil prices, CLK20, -5.56%  was 72 cents, or 2.6%, lower at $25.19 a barrel after its best daily gain on record on the New York Mercantile Exchange, punching higher from its lowest level since 2002 on Wednesday.

In precious metals, gold futures for April GCJ20, +0.95%  rose $15.90, or 1.1%, to settle at $1,493.60 an ounce on Comex, after a slight gain of 0.1% on Thursday.

The ICE U.S. dollar index, DXY, -0.54%  which tracks the greenback’s performance against a basket of currency trading peers, rose 1.4%, adding to a string of gains.

Japan’s Nikkei Index NIK, -1.04% was closed in observance of the Vernal Equinox. Meanwhile, China’s CSI 300 000300, +1.79%  gained 1.8%, while the Shanghai Composite Index SHCOMP, +1.61% closed up 1.6% and the Hang Seng Index HSI, +5.05% in Hong Kong surged 5.1%, while Korea’s Kospi Index 180721, +7.44% closed 7.4% higher.

The Stoxx Europe SXXP, +1.69%  traded 2.6% higher, while the FTSE 100 FTSE, -0.37%  added 1.8%.

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