Stocks See-Saw After Trump COVID Infection Disclosure, Biden Test Negative

UPDATED, 4:05 p.m. ET: U.S. stock indexes dropped Friday after President Trump revealed that he tested positive for coronavirus and a report that September job gains came in below forecasts.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.4% at market open, the tech-centric Nasdaq Composite Index slid 2.15%, and the S&P 500 was off 1.5%. Markets recovered noticeably around noon — and the Dow briefly crossed into positive territory — after news that Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, had tested negative for coronavirus.

As of market close Friday, the Dow had shed 134 points, down 0.48%, and S&P 500 was down about 1%. The Nasdaq index declined 2.2% for the day.

Markets globally were rattled by Trump’s positive test for COVID-19, because it introduces considerable uncertainty about the political leadership of the U.S., the world’s biggest economic power by GDP. At 74, Trump statistically is at a higher risk for health complications from COVID-19.

Stocks also took a hit as investors grappled with a new U.S. jobs report released Friday morning that the economy added 661,000 jobs in September 2020 — short of economists’ expectations of 859,000 and marking a slowdown from the U.S.’s jobs recovery over the past few months. The U.S. unemployment rate stood at 7.9% as of last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said, the highest it’s ever been before a presidential election. Since February, U.S. employers have reported a net loss of 10.7 million jobs.

Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill Thursday but Democrats encountered continued opposition from GOP leaders.

Most major media and tech stocks dropped in volatile trading Friday — with tech companies suffering bigger declines.

Apple closed down 3.2%, Amazon was off 3%, Facebook declined 2.5% and Alphabet (Google’s parent) was down 2.1%. Shares of Netflix dropped 4.6%.

Comcast dropped 2.8%, Lionsgate fell 2.6%, AT&T was -0.7%, Disney was -0.6% and Discovery was essentially flat (-0.05%). Meanwhile, shares of ViacomCBS climbed 1.05% Friday.

In Trump’s late-night tweet announcing that he and First Lady Melania Trump had the coronavirus, the president said the couple will remain quarantined in the White House for an unspecified length of time. That will certainly disrupt Trump’s upcoming campaign events in the final month before Election Day.

Earlier Thursday evening, Trump told the crowd at a fundraiser at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club that “the end of the pandemic is in sight.”

Also Thursday, Cornell University researchers released a study finding that media mentions citing Trump in the context of COVID-19 misinformation comprised 37.9% of the overall “misinformation conversation.” The study concludes that Trump — who has downplayed the threat of the coronavirus, promoted unproven and potentially dangerous medical treatments, and repeatedly ridiculed wearing of protective masks — has represented the single biggest source of falsehoods spread about the pandemic.

Pictured above: President Trump departing the White House on Oct. 1 for his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

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