Global stock markets fell on Friday as doubts about the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic overshadowed strong earnings from U.S. technology firms, while the dollar rose but was still set for its worst month in a decade.
Oil prices rose, benefiting from news that U.S. oil output cuts in May were the largest on record, while gold hovered near its all-time peak, helped by dollar weakness and dire economic numbers from far and wide that sparked a rush to safety.
MSCI’s world equity index, which tracks shares in 49 nations, fell 0.48% to 549.25, pulled lower by European stocks, which posted their first monthly decline since a market sell-off in March on growing recovery doubts.
Canada’s main stock index fell on Friday after data estimated the domestic economy likely shrank at a record pace in the second quarter, with sentiment also dented by poor earnings reports from Air Canada and Imperial Oil.
The nation’s real gross domestic product (GDP) is likely to have plunged by a record 12% in the second quarter, with the period heavily impacted by broad coronavirus shutdowns, Statistics Canada said in flash estimate.
Shares of Air Canada fell 6.1% after it posted a loss for the second quarter, while those of Imperial Oil ticked down 4.8% after it reported a second-straight quarterly loss.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 130.09 points, or 0.8%, at 16,169.20.
The energy sector was down 2.2% even though crude oil recovered from an overnight slump. U.S. crude futures rose 35 cents to settle at $40.27 a barrel, while Brent futures settled up 37 cents at $43.31 a barrel.
The consumer discretionary sector fell 1.6%, while the financials sector slipped 1.7%. The industrials sector fell 0.8%.
The materials sector, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, added 2% as gold rose, with prices up 10% for the month. Spot gold rose $10.50, or 0.5%, to $1,969.69 an ounce, just short of record highs set earlier in the week as bullion marched toward the $2,000 milestone.
Silver climbed 2% to $23.94 per ounce, on course for a monthly rise of 33%, its largest on records going back to 1982, supported by investment and industrial demand.
The Canadian dollar strengthened against its U.S. counterpart on Friday to notch its fourth straight monthly gain, its longest winning run in six years, as domestic data showed the economy expanded more than expected in May.
The gain for the loonie on Friday follows a decline in recent days. As the end of the month approaches, some market players tend to rebalance their currency hedges.
“As the month-end passed in London for the big global investors ... then I think the market said upward pressure in USD-CAD is off, back to where we were, which is down below 1.34,” said Greg Anderson, global head of foreign exchange strategy at BMO Capital Markets. “I think we’ll see more of that next week.”
The loonie has benefited in July from a weakening of the U.S. dollar, as coronavirus cases climbed in the United States, and from higher prices for oil, one of Canada’s major exports.
On Friday, the loonie was trading 0.3% higher at 1.3377 to the greenback, or 74.76 U.S. cents, taking its gain for the month to 1.5%. The monthly winning streak, which followed a sharp decline in March when financial markets were pummeled by the coronavirus crisis, was the currency’s longest since 2014.
The Nasdaq jumped more than 1% on Friday, powered by strong earnings from some of the largest U.S. companies, but the Dow and S&P finished with smaller gains as uncertainty about the government’s next round of coronavirus aid kept economic worries on the radar.
Apple Inc shares surged to reach a high in the wake of blowout quarterly results and a four-for-one stock split announcement.
Amazon.com Inc gained after posting its biggest profit ever while Facebook jumped after the social media platform blew past revenue expectations.
Google parent Alphabet Inc fell though, one of the biggest drags on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq, as it posted the first quarterly sales dip in its 16 years as a public company.
“The results were just fabulous, just so strong,” said Tim Ghriskey, Chief Investment Strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York. “These are extremely profitable companies and they produce products that people want.”
The four companies are among the top five in market capitalization, representing roughly 20% of the S&P 500′s total. Apple’s gain pushed it ahead of Saudi Aramco as the world’s most valuable public company, according to Refinitiv data.
The White House and Democrats were still negotiating on coronavirus relief aid, but not yet on a path toward reaching a deal, according to House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, hours before the expiration of a federal unemployment benefit.
“It seems like they are far apart and supposedly they are working at it and there is a lot of name calling and as usual there is a lot of bad blood between these two parties and they have to come to some compromise, clearly, but they are not there, that’s for sure,” said Ghriskey.
Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 121.01 points, or 0.46%, to 26,434.66, the S&P 500 gained 25.34 points, or 0.78%, to 3,271.56 and the Nasdaq Composite added 157.60 points, or 1.49%, to 10,745.42.
It was a choppy session with each major index up and down. The Dow at one point fell more than 1%. In late trade, stocks moved higher into the close as Microsoft shares pared losses of more than 2% after reports the company was said to be in talks to buy video app TikTok.
U.S. deaths from COVID-19 appeared to be rising at their fastest rate since early June, with the epicenter of the pandemic apparently shifting to the Midwest.
The benchmark index is now about 4% shy of its February all-time high, but faltering macroeconomic data and rising COVID-19 cases in the United States are making investors cautious again.
Still, the S&P notched its fourth weekly gain in the past five and fourth straight month of gains, with lift from massive fiscal and monetary stimulus measures to buttress the U.S. economy during the pandemic.
Energy stocks were the worst performing among the 11 major S&P sectors after Chevron Corp reported an $8.3 billion loss on asset writedowns and ExxonMobil Corp recorded a second consecutive quarterly loss.
Caterpillar Inc fell after the bellwether for economic activity offered little signs of improvement in equipment sales.
Global funds recommended cutting equity holdings in July to the lowest in four years and suggested keeping bond allocations unchanged from June, a Reuters poll showed.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index gave up early gains to close down 0.9%, pressured by a weak open on Wall Street.
The euro zone’s economy recorded its deepest contraction on record in the second quarter, preliminary estimates showed on Friday, while the bloc’s inflation unexpectedly ticked up in July.
Those figures overshadowed positive manufacturing data from China and Japan.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asian shares outside Japan fell 0.3%. Japan’s Nikkei dropped 2.82% as a stronger yen weighed on exporters.
China’s blue-chip CSI300 index closed up 0.84%, its biggest monthly gain since February 2019, rising 12.8%.
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