US stocks closed lower on Wednesday after dismal economic data and weak first-quarter earnings reports added to investor concerns over the damage from the coronavirus pandemic. The Dow Jones fell 1.85%, the S&P 500 lost 2.19%, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.44%. US retail sales plunged 8.7% last month versus -7.1% expected while industrial production fell 5.4%, the steepest decline since 1946. The New York Empire State Index dropped to a record low of -78.2 in April from -21.5 in the previous month. The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report pointed to a sharp contraction in business activity at the start of this month.
As for earnings, Bank of America reported a first-quarter profit that fell below expectations. The lender’s stocks declined 6.5% after the release. Citigroup’s shares dropped 5.6% after its first-quarter profit declined by 46%. UnitedHealth Group reported a fall in quarterly profit but maintained its 2020 profit outlook. As a result, the company’s shares rose more than 4%. Energy companies fell amid a sell-off in the oil market, with Exxon Mobil Corp shedding over 4.5% overnight.
Today in Asia, stocks were mixed-to-negative as investors continue to assess the economic damage caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The Nikkei 225 in Japan fell 1.33%, South Korea’s Kospi closed flat, China’s Shanghai composite finished up 0.31%. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.92% despite the unemployment rate in March came in at 5.2% versus 5.5% expected.
European stock markets opened higher on Thursday after their worst day in nearly three weeks. Germany’s DAX 30 gained nearly 1% after the government announced a plan to begin re-opening the economy starting next week. US stock index futures were also higher ahead of another report on US unemployment that could disappoint again and stir buyers later in the day.
Meanwhile, the greenback remains elevated in most currency pairs. EURUSD is barely holding above yesterday’s lows around 1.0855 and could threaten the 1.08 handle should investor sentiment deteriorate in the near term. GBPUSD has settled below the 1.25 figure that no acts as the immediate resistance again. USDJPY is gradually climbing back to the 100-DMA but struggles to regain the 108.00 level as traders continue to prefer a cautious approach.