US equities tumbled on Friday after President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump announced they both tested positive for COVID-19.
Trump was tested late Thursday night after close aide Hope Hicks tested positive for the virus earlier in the week. The White House physician did not say whether the president was showing symptoms, or how long he had been infected. The diagnosis is poised to halt Trump’s campaign events mere weeks away from the US presidential election.
All three major stock indexes sank alongside other risk assets as investors shifted cash to safe havens. The Cboe Volatility index – or VIX, which is commonly referred to as the stock market’s fear gauge – soared as much as 12% amid the frothy market action.
Here’s where US indexes stood shortly after the 9:30 a.m. ET open on Friday:
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Investors also faced a worse-than-expected of the labor market Friday morning. American businesses added 661,000 nonfarm payrolls in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The reading fell below the 859,000 additions expected by economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The unemployment rate fell to 7.9% through the month, beating the consensus estimate of 8.2%.
Though the government’s monthly report marked a fifth straight month of job additions, it also revealed a slowing pace of recovery for the beleaguered labor market.
The millions of Americans still unemployed also find themselves without key assistance from the government. House Democrats advanced their own $2.2 trillion measure late Thursday, aiming to revive a $600 per week expansion to unemployment benefits and send another round of direct payments. Yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated earlier in the week that Senate Republicans won’t back the bill.
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The US dollar initially slumped on the news of Trump’s diagnosis before retracing losses. Treasurys and the yen – both popular safe-haven assets – climbed.
Spot gold hovered near its key support level of $1,900 per ounce, trading at $1,899.17.
Oil prices continued to slide below $40 per barrel amid the chaotic trading. West Texas Intermediate crude sank as much as 5.4%, to $36.63 per barrel. Brent crude, oil’s international benchmark, fell 5.1%, to $38.83 per barrel, at intraday lows.
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