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Markets end the week on a bearish note as gold breaks $1,900

July 24, 2020, 10:25 PM UTC

Good evening, Bull Sheeters. This is Fortune finance reporter Rey Mashayekhi, filling in one last time this week for Bernhard Warner.

The weekend couldn’t come soon enough for the global markets, which were in the red virtually across the board. Tech stocks again led the way down, while the coronavirus pandemic and U.S.-China tensions continued to weigh on the minds of investors.

Markets update

U.S. 🌎

  • The Dow felt the drag of a -16% drop in Intel shares and ended the day down -0.7%. The S&P 500 shed -0.6%, and the Nasdaq lost -0.9%.
  • Notable earnings reports out today include Verizon, American Express, and Honeywell.
  • The much-hyped Big Tech antitrust congressional hearing—featuring the CEOs of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google—has been postponed to a TBD date. The hearing was slated for Monday, but has been delayed to accommodate memorial services for the late Rep. John Lewis.
  • Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, has laid off dozens of employees.
  • President Trump signed a series of executive orders that aim to lower prescription drug prices in the U.S. Pharmaceutical stocks were nonplussed.

Europe 🌍

  • The European bourses were not spared from Friday’s bearish mood. London’s FTSE fell -1.4%, Frankfurt’s DAX dropped -2%, the CAC 40 in Paris slid -1.5%, and the pan-European STOXX 600 lost -1.7%.
  • The European Union is demanding that the U.S. lift $7.5 billion worth of tariffs imposed last year.
  • There’s evidence that the U.S. and Europe are on diverging paths economically, due to their varying approaches to containing the coronavirus. Meanwhile, EU’s united economic strategy for recovering from the pandemic—and the euro’s recent rally—is turning Euroskeptic doubters into believers.
  • Russia has cut interest rates to a record low as the pandemic batters the country’s economy.
  • Bond investors are fleeing Turkey’s market by the billions.

Asia 🌏

  • The Asian markets felt the pain of worsening U.S.-China relations. Markets in Japan were again closed for a holiday on Friday, but those that were open were down across the board. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost -2.2% and South Korea’s KOSPI fell -0.7%. Mainland China bore the worst declines, with the SSE Composite in Shanghai down -3.9% and the SZSE Component in Shenzhen losing -5.3%.
  • Goldman Sachs has struck a settlement with the government of Malaysia for the investment bank’s role in the 1MDB scandal. Goldman will pay $3.9 billion in reparations, while Malaysia will drop criminal and regulatory charges against the bank.
  • Back to U.S.-China tensions: China has retaliated against the U.S.’s decision to close the Chinese consulate in Houston by ordering the closure of the American consulate in Chengdu, in Sichuan province. 
  • Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou—who’s at the center of an extradition dispute between Canada, China, and the U.S.—has accused the U.S. government of misleading Canadian authorities in the case.

Elsewhere 📈

  • Gold continues to trade at historic highs.
  • The dollar kept slumping, with the euro now at more than $1.16.
  • Crude oil was virtually flat, with Brent settling at more than $43 per barrel.

By the numbers

Per tradition, let’s end the week with some stats:


Of the 128 S&P 500 companies that had released their second-quarter earnings reports as of Friday morning, that’s the percentage that beat analysts’ earnings expectations, according to Refinitiv data. While it’s not uncommon for most companies to beat analysts’ targets in a given quarter—an average of 65% of firms have done just that since 1994—this quarter has seen more earnings beats, and by larger margins. On aggregate, companies are reporting earnings that are 11.9% above expectations, per Refinitiv, compared to an average of 3.3% above estimates since 1994.


That’s the vaunted price-per-ounce barrier surpassed by gold today. I covered gold’s extraordinary rally earlier this week, highlighting the macroeconomic anxieties that have seen investors flock to the “safe harbor.” Those anxieties haven’t faded over the course of this week; if anything, they’ve grown, and now both spot gold and gold futures are trading at record (or near-record) levels not seen since 2011.


That’s the current, record-low average interest rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage, according to Mortgage News Daily. While Freddie Mac said this week that mortgage rates had actually climbed slightly, to just over 3%, the mortgage industry publication says some homeowners are finding rates well below that—and roughly a full percentage point below where mortgage rates stood a year ago.


That’s all from me this week—it’s been a pleasure, as always. Bernhard will be back on Monday. Until then, have a wonderful weekend.

Rey Mashayekhi

Today's reads

What does Bank of America say about America? Fortune’s Shawn Tully dives into Bank of America’s second-quarter earnings report to find out what the financial services behemoth’s books reveal about the state of the U.S. economy.

What the hell, Intel? Over at Fortune’s Data Sheet newsletter, tech writer Aaron Pressman examines why Intel’s earnings report this week raised alarm bells around Wall Street—and sent the company’s stock plummeting 16% on Friday.

Stuck in the middle with you. Are we witnessing the demise of America’s middle class? What does "middle class" even mean in 2020? The Pew Research Center recently updated its online middle-class calculator; give it a try and see where you fall in America’s class divide.

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Market candy

“Another government stimulus package is not in the best interests of the people imo”

So says Elon Musk, who took to Twitter to voice his opinions on why he believes Congress’s plans for another coronavirus aid bill are ill-advised. Elon did go on to clarify that he’s in favor of direct payments to individuals, à la universal basic income—but described government stimulus packages as “jammed to the gills with special interests earmarks.

Elsewhere in Teslaworld, Musk’s company saw its stock fall closer to Earth Friday, shedding another -6% in the wake of Thursday’s -5% decline. Still, Tesla shares are up more than three-fold this year to date.