Stocks fell on Friday, with all three major averages closing out the first week of the second quarter on a low after new employment data underscored the brutal reality of the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating impact on the economy.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down by around 300 points, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq trading lower by around 1.5 percent each.
Monthly data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that payrolls fell by 701,000 in March. While that is the largest decline since 2010, a drop of some kind had already been priced in by market participants and economists.
The closely watched employment snapshot on Friday also showed that the nation’s unemployment rate has soared to 4.4 percent, from 3.5 percent, after months at a half-century low.
March’s data represents the tip of the iceberg, however, since the survey was conducted in the first half of the month, prior to the pandemic’s grip on the economy.
An oil rally also boosted markets, with crude soaring by around 25 percent on indications that Saudi Arabia and Russia would end a brutal price war that has seen the price of oil sink to levels not seen since the 1990s.
Oil-producing cartel OPEC said it would meet on Monday next week to discuss output cuts, and President Donald Trump met with senior executives from the energy sector to discuss how to handle the plunging demand and soaring inventory levels in the U.S.
President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “want something to happen badly,” Trump said at that meeting.
Investors also evaluated a spike in confirmed coronavirus fatalities in the U.S., with New York registering its biggest increase to date.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that the number of deaths had risen by 562 in just 24 hours.