US Surge in Covid-19 Cases Sparks 3.5% Drop on the Dow

MANHATTAN (CN) — Stock markets lost momentum from gains earlier in the week after news broke that the United States leads the world in coronavirus case numbers.

Stock futures indicated an initial drop was inevitable. Once markets opened, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 3.5%, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq suffering similar decreases.

A couple looks at the ABC News video screen in New York’s Times Square showing coverage of a coronavirus outbreak in Woodbridge, N.J., on March 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The week has largely been a positive one for U.S. investors. Despite losses on Monday, the markets leapt up on Tuesday in a historic rally. The Dow is now up more than 2,000 points for the week, though still far below its high point of 29,551 points last month.

In Europe, markets were down about 3.5% to 5% across the board at 9 a.m. E.S.T., as Spain, Italy and other countries grappled with overwhelmed medical facilities and mounting death counts.

Conversely, Asian markets closed up on Friday, with the Nikkei increasing almost 4% and South Korea’s market up 1.8%. Australia’s ASX 200 dropped more than 5%, though that market had rallied earlier in the week.

Investors on Friday likely have one eye on Congress, where the House is expected to debate and vote on the $2 trillion stimulus bill.

Representing the largest government aid package in U.S. history, the bill passed the Senate unanimously 96-0 earlier this week.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has urged members not to object to a voice vote on the package, since many representatives have not been able to return to the Capitol to debate the bill.

One member could derail the vote by objecting, in which case the House could convene on Saturday for a vote.

“If we have a quorum tomorrow, we will take a vote tomorrow,” Pelosi reportedly said on a Democratic Caucus call Thursday.

During his daily press brief on Thursday, President Trump highlighted the passage of the stimulus but dismissed the record spike of 3.2 million new unemployment claims.

The rise in unemployment claims were, by far, the highest recorded since the department began during the 1960s. The next highest reported unemployment numbers were in 1982, with 695,000 claims.

The president said the number was half of what it could have been. “I heard it could be 6 million, it could be 7 million,” Trump said. “It’s a lot of jobs, but I think we’ll come back very strong.”

Trump added the high unemployment rate is another reason to reopen the economy and get people back to work quickly. “The sooner we get back to work … you know every day that we stay out, it gets harder to bring it back very quickly,” he said.

The president has pushed for the country to reopen by Easter Sunday despite reservations by many medical experts. He has also pitched reopening the country on a county-by-county basis.

Cases of Covid-19, the new strain of coronavirus, have more than doubled in the last week, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The virus has affected more than 542,000 and killed more than 24,000 worldwide.

On Thursday, the United States surpassed Italy and China to take the lead in the number of Covid-19 cases. About 86,000 have been infected by the virus in the United States, while 1,300 have died.

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