Stocks are mixed in early trading on Wall Street Thursday after the government reported that millions more workers lost their jobs last week, though not as many as had been feared.
The report was universally regarded as awful, with 5.2 million more Americans filing for unemployment benefits last week as layoffs sweep the country amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Markets had braced for a number that was even more awful. The S&P 500 initially rose but the gains faded after the first half-hour of trading, leaving the index down 0.5%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq rose.
Economists had told investors to expect hundreds of thousands more claims, and the number was also a touch lower than the tally of each of the two prior weeks, which were both over 6.6 million.
Treasury yields fell again and remain extremely low, which shows how pessimistic investors are about the economy’s prospects.
Markets are still unsettled following a downdraft Wednesday, when the S&P 500 fell 2.2% following reports on the economy that were worse than investors were expecting, including a record drop for U.S. retail sales last month.
Markets have been stuck in an up-and-down cycle for weeks as traders try to guess how long and how deep the upcoming recession will be.
On one hand, investors see the severe economic damage caused by the pandemic. On the other, optimistic investors are focusing on massive aid for the economy promised by the Federal Reserve and the U.S government. They also point to recent signs that the outbreak may be leveling off in some of the world’s hardest-hit areas, which could open the path to reopening parts of the economy.
Ultimately, many professional investors say they expect the market to remain volatile until the worst of the outbreak passes.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 224 points, or 1%, at 23,292 after the first half-hour of trading. The Nasdaq was up 0.6%.
Tech stocks, health care companies and several retailers rose, while banks and energy companies notched more losses.
In Europe, Germany’s DAX rose 1.1%, France’s CAC 40 rose 0.7% and the FTSE 100 in London added 0.6%.
In Asia, where markets closed before the release of the U.S. jobless report, Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 1.3%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 0.6%, and the Kospi in South Korea slipped 0.1%.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 0.60% from 0.64% late Wednesday. Yields fall when bond prices rise. Investors tend to bid up Treasurys when they’re worried about the economy.