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Trump plans to weigh in on China-Hong Kong tensions, sinking global stocks

May 29, 2020, 9:06 AM UTC

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Happy Friday, everyone. The S&P 500 yesterday was headed for its eighth positive session in the past ten, and then President Trump announced he would schedule a press conference for Friday to address the China-Hong Kong tensions. Everything went south after that.

Let’s check in on the action.

Markets update

Asia

  • The major indices are broadly lower this morning. Shanghai is clinging to slim gains. There’s red nearly everywhere else.
  • Later today, President Trump will take to the podium in Washington, likely to announce tough new policies directed at Beijing.
  • “We are not happy with China,” Trump said on Thursday. He wasn’t specific, but the markets interpreted those words as an ominous sign, sending global equities down.

Europe

  • The European bourses fell out of the gates, the first time the indices have opened in the red all week. London’s FTSE started the day down 1%.
  • French automaker Renault announced it will cut 14,600 jobs in a bid to save €2 billion over three years. Across the Channel, the sum total of cars that British automakers made in April was a mere 197, the lowest output since World War II.
  • Rolls-Royce, the aerospace giant, fell more than 8% at the open after Standard & Poor’s downgraded it to junk status yesterday, another sign of tumult in the aviation sector.

U.S.

  • The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures are all trading lower, looking to extend yesterday’s losses.
  • Boeing shares closed 0.2% higher yesterday after it outlined job cuts of roughly 13,000, and the resumption of 737 Max production.
  • As China and scores of listed companies have already done, the U.S. yesterday confirmed it will abandon the practice of disclosing an economic forecast for 2020. The numbers have been all over the place, anyhow—the Q1 GDP was revised downward significantly yesterday.

Elsewhere

  • Gold is up
  • The dollar is down.
  • Crude is falling again. Brent is off 1.5%, hovering above $35/gallon.

By the Numbers

40.8 million. I’m going to again kick things off with job numbers, even if the markets continue to shrug off the carnage week after week. 40.8 million workers in the United States have now filed for unemployment benefits over the past ten weeks. Yesterday’s tally of 2.1 million jobless claims was roughly 300,000 lower than the prior week, more or less in line with analysts’ consensus. The 40.8 million unemployed means that nearly one-quarter of eligible American workers are out of a job. To repeat: nearly one-quarter.

88. The U.S. hit a grim milestone this week when it surpassed 100,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths. I realize “time” is a squishy concept, but it’s important to note the U.S. went from zero to 100,000 in just about 88 days, calculates Fortune‘s Lance Lambert. Few countries have managed the outbreak well. Most days it seems like we’re looking at a game of whack-a-mole where hotspots smolder and cool off, only for new hotspots to emerge. According to the New York Times, the number of infections and deaths are rising in more than a dozen states. The stock markets may be soaring, but this public health crisis is far from over.

84.48. The Nasdaq closed at 9,348.99 yesterday, a gain of 84.48 points over the past five trading sessions. In the past two weeks, the tech-heavy index is up nearly 5%, pushing it into positive territory for 2020 (4.4% higher YTD). The Nasdaq performance seems to be largely unaffected by U.S. labor market woes. It’s worth posing the question: Will escalating trade tensions with China matter for Big Tech?

***

Have a nice weekend, everyone. I’ll see you here on Monday.

Bernhard Warner
@BernhardWarner
Bernhard.Warner@Fortune.com

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17

Could Americans be becoming a more thrifty lot? Gretchen Howard, COO of Robinhood, told Fortune's Jeff John Roberts that there's been an explosion in savings among members of the popular digital finance firm... and a surge in stock-buying. Howard noted "a 17-fold increase in deposits at Robinhood in March compared with the fourth quarter of 2019, and said much of the trading activity on the platform consisted of buying. Among the most popular stocks were those of airlines and cruise operators," Roberts writes. Buy the dip, as they say.