U.S. Stocks Remain Firmly Negative After Early Sell-Off

After coming under pressure early in the session, stocks remain mostly lower in afternoon trading on Friday. With the steep drop on the day, the major averages are adding to the losses posted in the previous session.

The major averages have climbed off their worst levels in recent trading but remain firmly negative. The Dow is down 315.30 points or 0.9 percent at 33,473.36, the Nasdaq is down 237.17 points or 1.8 percent at 13,300.77 and the S&P 500 is down 51.06 points or 1.2 percent at 4,312.43.

The early sell-off on Wall Street came as concerns about the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine continued to weigh on the markets, with Russia ratcheting up its attacks.

Russia has reportedly taken control of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.

The Russian attack on the plant had previously caused a fire to break out at the facility, raising concerns about a potential nuclear disaster.

Worries about Ukraine have overshadowed a typically closely watched Labor Department report showing U.S. employment once again jumped by much more than expected in the month of February.

The report showed non-farm payroll employment spiked by 678,000 jobs in February after surging by an upwardly revised 481,000 jobs in January.

Economists had expected employment to increase by 400,000 jobs compared to the addition of 467,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.

With the stronger than expected job growth, the unemployment rate dipped to 3.8 percent in February from 4.0 percent in January. The unemployment rate was expected to edge down to 3.9 percent.

The report also showed a slowdown in the annual rate of wage growth, which economists suggested could lead to less pressure on the Federal Reserve to aggressively raise interest rates.

Sector News

Airline stocks continue to see substantial weakness in afternoon trading, resulting in a 5 percent nosedive by the NYSE Arca Airline Index. With the steep drop on the day, the index has tumbled to its lowest intraday level in well over a year.

A steep drop by treasury yields has also contributed to considerable weakness among financial stocks, with the KBW Bank Index and the NYSE Arca Broker/Dealer Index plunging by 3.9 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively.

Semiconductor stocks have also shown a significant move to the downside on the day, dragging the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index down by 2.3 percent.

Computer hardware, tobacco, networking and chemical stocks have also moved notably lower, while gold and utilities stocks are bucking the downtrend.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved to the downside during trading on Friday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index tumbled by 2.2 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index slumped by 1 percent.

The major European markets also moved sharply lower on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index plummeted by 5 percent, the German DAX Index plunged by 4.4 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index sank by 3.5 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries have climbed firmly into positive territory despite the strong jobs data. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 11.3 basis points at 1.731 percent.

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