The Dow Jones dealt bulls a discouraging hand on Friday, and not just because a surprise press conference from President Donald Trump turned out to be a complete dud.
Neither Dr. Anthony Fauci’s call to reopen the U.S. economy nor Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s vaccine praise managed to spark risk appetite.
Tensions between the U.S. and China are boiling over, and the latest developments in Hong Kong appear to have set a hurdle in the path of the stock market recovery.
The Dow was the weakest of Wall Street’s primary indices, though neither the S&P 500 nor the Nasdaq fared particularly well either.
With no top-shelf economic data released, coronavirus developments and geopolitical relations remained strongly in focus to close the week.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper gave stocks a temporary bump by expressing confidence that a vaccine could arrive by year’s end.
You know, our medical experts, our researchers have been working on this vaccine now, and therapeutics and diagnostics for a few months. We’ve been ahead of the curve and in the fight from day one, and this is the next phase of this battle, and we will deliver on time.
But the boost quickly faded, even though Esper’s remarks weren’t the only good news for the Dow on that front.
The nation’s leading virologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, claimed that now was the time to reopen the U.S. economy, albeit cautiously.
He told CNBC,
Now is the time, depending on where you are and what your situation, to be looking seriously at re-opening the economy, re-opening the country. I’m totally in favor of that if done in the appropriate way and the appropriate setting.
Bulls did not react strongly to his comments, just as they failed to respond to his earlier praise for Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine trial results.
Investors seem to be shifting their attention back to a familiar topic: U.S.-China relations, and the devolution thereof.
Wall Street anxiously watched President Trump’s surprise press conference this afternoon, anticipating either a response to China’s aggressive new Hong Kong policy or news about another round of government stimulus.
After a 30-minute delay, Trump finally came out and declared that places of worship were essential and had to reopen immediately.
It was an utter non-event for the Dow Jones, even more so because Trump doesn’t have the authority to order state governors to adopt this policy.
The Dow may have traded mostly sideways, but it is clear that China concerns have begun rippling through the index’s individual components.
Caterpillar, widely seen as a bellwether for global growth, came under pressure after Beijing surprised analysts by not unveiling a new GDP target. This suggests that even the highly regulated Chinese economy is uncertain about the future, and CAT fell by 1.6%.
Crude oil was also under pressure. This dragged on Chevron, making it the weakest stock in the Dow Jones with a 2% loss.
Apple was up 0.3%, providing its usual support to the index, while another Dow heavyweight, UnitedHealth Group, was in the green as well.
This article was edited by Josiah Wilmoth.