After bobbling between small gains and losses, stock indexes swooned Thursday, closing down for its third loss in a row. Investors continue to be uneasy about global issues, and safe-haven prices rose. Trading was light on the last day before the long Easter holiday weekend.
ON WALL STREET: At the close, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down nearly 16 points, about 0.7 percent, at nearly 2,329. The Dow Jones industrial average had fallen 132.9 points, about 0.7 percent, to 20,453.3. The Nasdaq composite slid 31 points, about 0.5 percent, to 5,805.2.
U.S. markets will be closed Friday for the Good Friday holiday.
GOLD CLIMBING: At the close, gold had climbed $10.70 to $1,288.80 an ounce, its highest level since early November. Silver gained 20 cents to $18.50 an ounce.
TREASURY YIELDS: Bond prices edged higher. At the close, the yield on the benchmark U.S. 10-year note fell to 2.232 percent from 2.24 percent late Wednesday.
OIL PRICES: As markets closed, benchmark U.S. crude was down 6 cents at $53.05 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London on the Intercontinental Exchange Europe, Brent crude, used to price international oils, was off 1 cent at $55.76 a barrel. The market seemed to take in stride a report by the International Energy Agency saying that demand growth for oil will slow this year for a second consecutive year.
THE TRUMP EFFECT: The dollar continued to weaken a day after President Donald Trump said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that the dollar was “getting too strong” and that he won’t declare China a currency manipulator. On the dollar’s exchange rate against those of major trading partners, Trump said: “I think our dollar is getting too strong, and partially that’s my fault because people have confidence in me.” He added that “It’s very, very hard to compete when you have a strong dollar and other countries are devaluing their currency.” The remarks helped push the yen to its highest level since mid-November, just after the presidential election. The dollar slid to 109.15 yen from 109.71 yen late Wednesday. The euro strengthened to $1.0616 from $1.0598.
TRUMP CHINA RAPPORT: Trump said he won’t declare China a currency manipulator, dropping a key campaign promise. In a newspaper interview and a White House news conference, Trump hailed the rapport he developed with China President Xi Jinping in meetings last week that seem to have eased trade tensions. A declaration that China manipulates the exchange rate of its yuan to gain a trade advantage could have opened the way to sanctions. “They’re not currency manipulators,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal, saying Beijing hadn’t been cheating on its currency for months.
ANALYST VIEWPOINT: “After a few weeks of relative calm, the Trump hurricane is back to disrupt the tranquillity in the currency markets,” said analyst Margaret Yang of CMC Markets in a commentary. “I describe Trump’s influence on currencies as a hurricane as it’s both harmful and unpredictable. It is debatable whether Trump can have both a weak currency and massive fiscal stimulus at the same time.”
CHINA’S TRADE BALANCE: China’s export growth accelerated in March in a positive sign for global demand while import growth cooled. Customs data show exports rose 16.4 percent from a year earlier to $180.6 billion, up from 4 percent growth in the first two months of the year. Imports rose 20.3 percent to $156.6 billion, down from the January-February rate of 26.4 percent.