Stocks drop as unemployment spikes

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Stocks fell in regular trading Friday, as all major American indices fell in the wake of a broadly negative jobs report. With more than 700,000 jobs lost in the March data, unemployment in the United States rose from 3.5% to 4.4%.

The markets have been bracing for widespread job losses due to the continued fallout from COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus that has prompted local, county and state officials throughout the U.S. and Europe to issue stay-at-home orders. Those directives have forced bars, restaurants, gyms and other non-essentials businesses to close.

While the market had expected a wave of job losses, stocks fell as those figures surpassed expectations. Selloffs were further spurred by this troubling recognition: Friday’s figures only account for unemployment-insurance claims individuals filed in the first two weeks of March, before most of the COVID-related layoffs began.

This was unlike Thursday, when negative data led to market gains.

Here are the day’s raw results:

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average: down 1.67%, or 357.99 points, to close at 21,055.45
  • S&P 500: fell 1.52%, or 38.34 points, to close at 2,488.56
  • Nasdaq composite: declined 1.53%, or 114.23 points, to close at 7,373.08

Shares of SaaS and cloud companies tracked by the Bessemer cloud index fell as well, while cryptocurrencies were roughly flat in the 24-hour period ending with the close of equity trading.

There were standouts, however. Shares of Tesla held onto some of their after-hours gains recorded yesterday, closing the day up 5.62% to close at $408.01 as the company continued to ride its positive report that it had delivered more vehicles than expected. Bill.com, a recent SaaS IPO, managed gains as well, closing the day up 2.71%. It was somewhat hard to find exceptions to the selloff; most companies lost ground in the face of worse-than-expected economic data.

Every sector saw downward pressure Friday, with the exception of energy and consumer products, which saw a bit of a lift. Oil futures had one of its best days on record, after Russian President Vladimir Putin said global cuts of around 10 million barrels a day are possible.

Airlines were also hit Friday after the U.S. Department of Transportation ordered the industry to provide refunds on any flights that companies had canceled. While airline stocks recovered, they all closed in negative territory. United Airlines fell 2.28% to close at $22.88, American Airlines declined 6.8% to $9.38 and Delta Airlines dropped 0.88% to $22.48.