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Global stock markets sank on Friday following more signs that the COVID-19 pandemic would take a massive toll on economic growth, while oil prices continued to rally on hopes of a cut to global supply.

Investors sought out safe havens in the U.S. dollar and government bonds, pushing U.S. Treasury yields near their lowest in three weeks.

U.S. payrolls fell by the largest amount since March 2009, ending a record 113 straight months of job growth. Morgan Stanley said the U.S. economy will shrink 5.5% in 2020, the steepest drop since 1946, with a huge 38% contraction predicted for the second quarter.

Canada’s main stock index gave up early gains to finish lower on Friday.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was unofficially down 159.54 points, or 1.22%, at 12,938.30. The index had opened about 0.3% higher.

Ten of the index’s 11 major sectors were lower. The financials sector slipped 2.1% and the industrials sector fell 1.3%.

The energy sector closed down 1.9%, despite a rise in crude prices.

The materials sector, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, added 0.5% as gold futures eked out gains.

Wall Street’s main indexes fell on Friday as the coronavirus abruptly ended a record U.S. job growth streak of 113 months, leaving little doubt that the economy is in a recession.

And even the loss of 701,000 jobs that Labor Department data showed for March did not completely capture the economic carnage. The survey considered data only until mid-March, before widespread U.S. lockdowns put more people out of work.

The worldwide spread of the virus has forced billions of people to stay indoors and pushed entire sectors to the brink of collapse, triggering mass layoffs and dramatic steps by companies to raise cash.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 357.99 points, or 1.67%, to end at 21,055.45 point, the S&P 500 lost 38.34 points, or 1.52%, to 2,488.56 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 114.23 points, or 1.53%, to 7,373.08.

Crude futures surged for a second day on Friday, with both U.S. and Brent contracts posting their largest weekly percentage gains on record due to hopes that a global deal to cut crude supply worldwide will emerge early next week.

On Thursday, oil staged its largest one-day rally in history on prospects for a cut in supply equivalent to anywhere from 10% to 15% of world demand. The sharp rebound from weeks of losses came after U.S. President Donald Trump said Russia and Saudi Arabia will negotiate to end a price war that slashed prices last month by more than half. Trump said the United States has not agreed to cut its output.

The rally continued Friday, with Brent crude futures jumping 13.9%, or $4.17 a barrel to settle at $34.11. Brent soared as much as 47% on Thursday for its highest intraday percentage gain on record, closing up 21%. The contract ended the week 36.8% higher, the largest weekly percentage gain in the contract’s history.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose $3.02, or 11.93% to settle at $28.34 a barrel. The contract posted a 31.8% gain on the week, also its largest on record.

OPEC has scheduled a Monday emergency meeting, led by Saudi Arabia, where cuts equal to 10% of world supply - about 10 million barrels per day - could be agreed-upon.

“Grand oil bargain diplomacy clearly shifted into high gear overnight and cuts are likelier than they were until yesterday,” said Robert McNally, president of Rapidan Energy Group in Bethesda, Maryland. “The size of cuts seems to be increasing, and the timing is accelerated.”

Reuters

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