Stocks Finish Lower as Trump Plans China News Conference

Stocks gave up gains as President Donald Trump announced a Friday news conference on China.
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Stocks gave up gains and ended lower Thursday after President Donald Trump said he would hold a Friday news conference regarding China.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 147 points, or 0.58%, to 25,400. At one point on Thursday the Dow industrials were up 0.8%.

The S&P 500 ended down 0.21%, while the Nasdaq was off 0.46%. 

The Nasdaq had rebounded from an earlier decline after White House officials said Trump would sign an executive order aimed at curbing the influence of social-media companies such as Twitter  (TWTR) - Get Report and Facebook  (FB) - Get Report.

Trump made his announcement on China at a time when the White House is looking to pressure Beijing over its treatment of Hong Kong.

Chinese lawmakers endorsed a national security law for Hong Kong aimed at what officials in Beijing have called "secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference." But critics have said the laws could undercut civil liberties in the semi-autonomous region.

The measure and the way it is being enacted prompted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to say that Hong Kong was no longer politically autonomous from China. Trump has said he would respond strongly to the measure, perhaps imposing certain trade barriers.

In addition, the House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation condemning China for the detention and torture of Uighur Muslims in the country’s western region of Xinjiang.

Also, the Labor Department said 2.123 million Americans filed jobless claims for the week ended May 23, down slightly from 2.438 million claims for the week earlier, as parts of the U.S. economy slowly began to reopen after more than two months of being shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Weekly claims gradually have been declining since hitting a record 6.867 million in the week ended March 28, as more states lift stay-at-home orders and as businesses slowly reopen, even as the pandemic has claimed more than 100,000 U.S. lives. 

Continuing claims, a number that tallies not just people filing for unemployment benefits but staying on them, were 21.052 million for the week ended May 16, down from a record 25.073 million.

“Another week of unemployment insurance claims in the millions brings the total to over 40 million over the past 10 weeks," said Glassdoor Senior Economist Daniel Zhao. "Although initial claims are declining, the pace may only be plateauing. 

"If UI claims remain in the millions for the next few weeks, it may signal that relaxed state-mandated restrictions alone aren’t enough to staunch the flow of unemployed Americans," Zhao added.

In other economic data, orders for durable goods in April declined 17.2%, a slightly narrower drop than the 19% fall expected by economists. April's drop in durable-goods orders was the second largest since the government began recording the data in the 1990s.

Gross domestic product in the first quarter fell at a 5% annual rate, slightly more than initially estimated as the U.S. went into lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.

Stocks finished higher Wednesday and the S&P 500 closed over 3,000 points for the first time since early March.