Stocks, oil futures bomb after Trump tests positive for COVID-19

October 2, 2020, 9:01 AM UTC

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Good morning. There’s just one story driving markets at the moment: President Trump’s early morning tweet that he and the First Lady have tested positive for COVID-19. That’s sent markets into a tailspin. At the outset, investors poured into safe havens, particularly the Japanese yen and gold. Meanwhile, equities, oil contracts and U.S. futures fell off a cliff, with Nasdaq futures down as much as 2%, before stabilizing somewhat. It’s also a bad day if you’re long Russian assets: stocks in Moscow and the ruble are among the worst performers.

Let’s check in on the action.

Markets update


  • The major Asia indexes swung to the red in early afternoon trading with the MSCI Asia Pacific down 0.3%, erasing earlier gains.
  • After yesterday’s outage in Tokyo, Japan’s Nikkei is back online, down 0.7% in afternoon trade.


  • The European bourses are awash in red with Paris, London and Frankfurt all down more than 1% at the open.
  • In FX news, the Russian ruble is down significantly, off 1%, as betting odds swing further in favor of a Joe Biden victory in November.
  • Brexit trade talks wrap up today. And, no, there’s been little progress in this round, making trade in the pound sterling incredibly volatile.
  • Tesla got a crucial green light for its German factory and is expected to begin producing its electric vehicles there beginning next year.


  • At approximately 54 minutes past midnight in Washington D.C., President Trump tweeted his COVID diagnosis, and the U.S. futures promptly caved, giving up earlier gains.
  • The final jobs report before Election Day is due before the opening bell today, and analysts are projecting that 875,000 jobs will have been added in the past month, putting the unemployment rate at 8.2%.
  • Google on Thursday pledged to distribute up to $1 billion to news publishers over the next three years as part of its unveiling of a new product called News Showcase. Don’t imagine for a moment this will settle the differences between the two sides.


  • Gold is up, nudging above $1,910/ounce.
  • The dollar has been gaining all morning.
  • Crude is down sharply, with Brent off 3%, trading below $40/barrel.


By the numbers


Political pundits often talk about an October surprise, a piece of breaking news that rocks the presidential campaign. Investors are no fans of such bombshells. And so far the markets are treating today’s COVID tweet as just that—a shock. The Dow Jones Industrial Average bombed down in overnight trade immediately following Trump’s COVID tweet. The blue chip index was off 380 points, before stabilizing. The Nasdaq, meanwhile, was off 265, down more than 2.3% at one point. The bulls have been focused on the stimulus package negotiations over the past two weeks as a potential markets jolt. The bears, meanwhile, were still worried about COVID and further lockdown measures. Look for that bearish chatter to intensify now that the president has tested positive.


Even with Nasdaq futures sinking this morning, the tech-heavy exchange appears on track to close higher for the week, the first time in the past five weeks. Exactly one month ago today, on Sept. 2, the Nasdaq hit an all-time high. It’s off 6% since then. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the Nasdaq is up 3.7% in the past week.

And while I’m talking about the Nasdaq, I have to correct the record on something I wrote yesterday. As a reader pointed out, I short-changed both the bull run of the S&P 500 and Nasdaq since their mid-March lows. The latter is up 62.7% since then; meanwhile, the S&P 500 is up 50.3% in that stretch.


The price of Brent crude has performed, as an asset, worse than equities in the past month. A barrel of Brent is trading around 39 bucks, down $4.54 in the past month. That’s a 10.2% drop in the past month as doubts hang over the recovery of the global economy.


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

Bernhard Warner

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Today's read

What Wall Street wants. It's no secret that finance stocks have been the big laggards of 2020. But could the sector's fortunes be primed for a comeback after Election Day? I spoke to a lot of Wall Street pros in recent weeks to get their take on what Big Finance—and, by extension, investors—would like to see from the next administration

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