Stocks finished mixed Wednesday as President Donald Trump pushed to reopen the U.S. economy and investors assessed a loss of more than 20 million U.S. private payroll jobs during April.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 218 points, 0.91%, to 23,664, the S&P 500 fell 0.7% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 0.51%.
The Dow started out higher, spent much of the day edging between a gain and a loss, and then faltered late in trading. At one point it was up as much as 170 points, or 0.7%.
Trump, speaking in Phoenix during his first trip outside Washington in more than a month, said he wanted the U.S. economy to reopen but acknowledged some people will be “badly affected” if coronavirus infections increase as lockdowns are eased.
“Will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes,” the president said. “But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon.”
“There’ll be more death,” he said in an interview with ABC News later on Tuesday. “The virus will pass, with or without a vaccine. And I think we’re doing very well on the vaccines but, with or without a vaccine, it’s going to pass, and we’re going to be back to normal."
The president is pushing to reopen the economy just as ADP and Moody's Analytics reported Wednesday that U.S. companies reduced payrolls by 20.236 million through mid-April, the steepest drop ever.
The decline comes as the worst of the coronavirus-induced economic freeze began claiming vast numbers of full and part-time positions.
While a rear-view-mirror look, the numbers paint a somber picture of an economy that systematically shut down as the coronavirus pandemic and fear of contagion shuttered businesses and forced millions to seek jobless benefits.
Some 30 million jobless claims were filed from mid-March to the end of April, according to weekly figures released by the Labor Department.
The nonfarm-payroll figures for April will be released Friday.
"Unfortunately we should get comfortable with unprecedented pressure on the labor market despite pockets of the country reopening. This pandemic has systemically changed the way we live and work," said Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E-Trade.
"If these job losses end up being permanent, that’s a horse of a different color due to the negative effect it will have on spending and the economy," he added.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said the U.S. economy has to be opened gradually.
“The shutdown can’t go on forever because if it does, deep into the second half, then I think you risk getting into a financial crisis or even a depression scenario,” Bullard told CNBC on Wednesday. “And if you get into that, I think even health outcomes would be way worse.”
Walt Disney (DIS) reported a sharp profit decline for the fiscal second quarter as the coronavirus pandemic shut its theme parks, closed movie theaters and cut ESPN's programming due to the suspension of most professional sports.
The entertainment giant suspended its semiannual dividend following a $1.4 billion hit to second-quarter profit that overshadowed impressive subscriber gains at its Disney+ streaming service.
Disney said it would take a "phased" approach to theme park reopenings after noting the division was responsible for around $1 billion of the second-quarter profit drop. Disney said Shanghai Disneyland will reopen May 11.
CVS Health (CVS) posted stronger-than-expected first-quarter earnings as coronavirus lockdowns boosted retail and pharmacy sales. Customers stockpiled household items and medical prescriptions.
General Motors (GM) posted first-quarter adjusted earnings of 62 cents a share, beating analysts' estimates of 40 cents, and said "considerable planning" was underway to restart its North American operations.