The U.S. stock market started the week fairly strong but ended the week lower amid grim coronavirus forecasts and skyrocketing unemployment claims. Interest rates also moved lower on this news as the 10-year treasury yield fell from 0.72% last week to 0.62% today. Meanwhile the spread between the 10-year treasury yield and the 2-year treasury yield narrowed from 0.47% to 0.39%. The price of gold rose 1.5% to $1,648 an ounce as investors continue to buy up the safe-haven metal. The price of crude oil, which has fallen over 50% since the beginning of March, jumped by 33.2% to $28.73 a barrel amid indications that Russia and OPEC will come to an agreement to cut oil production.
THIS WEEK’S ECONOMIC HIGHLIGHTS
Initial unemployment claims doubled since last week, jumping from 3.3 million to 6.6 million, as businesses are either forced to close or cutback hours due to the coronavirus pandemic. Never has initial claims shot up so quickly as just two weeks ago initial claims sat at near half-century lows of around 200,000.
The U.S. trade deficit shrunk by a sharp 12.2% in February to $39.9 billion as the coronavirus takes a hit on imports from China and crude oil prices fall. That said, the trade deficit between the U.S. and China narrowed from $26 billion to $16 billion (i.e. 38%). Meanwhile, the total of U.S. imports fell by 2.5% to $247.5 billion and U.S. exports fell by a lesser 0.4% to $207.5 billion.
The U.S. lost 701,000 jobs in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, its first major monthly decline since the 2008-2009 recession. At the same time, the unemployment rate jumped from a 50-year low of 3.5% to 4.4%. However, with the large increase in initial unemployment claims at the end of this week, analysts believe the true unemployment rate is near 10%.
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds. It will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”
– Charles Mackay
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