Equity markets entered the second quarter of 2018 a bit skittish, having just posted the worst three months in over two years. Many markets in Europe and Asia were closed Easter Monday, and China and Hong Kong took a mid-week break.
Heightened trade tensions between China and the U.S. continued to dominate sentiment during the week. Worries of an evolving trade war remain, adding steam last week amid the verbal volley of retaliatory tariff announcements between the Trump administration and Chinese officials. Another factor that may have weighed on sentiment Friday was the Labor Department’s monthly employment summary. The U.S. economy added just 103,000 new jobs in March to mark the smallest increase since last fall and well below the 170,000 forecast. But the latest report on employment still shows the tightest labor market in nearly two decades.
U.S. stocks are 9.3% below January’s record high, near their lows for the year, and have logged just their fifth 10% correction since this bull market began.
U.S. stocks closed sharply lower on Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2.3%, to end at 23,932.76, bringing its weekly decline to 0.7%. All 30 blue-chip companies finished with losses on Friday.
The S&P 500 index dropped 2.2%, to finish at 2,604.47, with all 11 main sectors trading in negative territory. More than 95% of S&P 500 stocks closed lower. Consumer discretionary and energy stocks fared best, while health care, industrials, and technology shares lagged. The benchmark index lost 1.4% over the week.
The Nasdaq Composite Index declined 2.3%, to close at 6,915.11, leaving it with a 2.1% weekly fall.
Gold futures on Friday logged a daily and weekly advance on the back of U.S.-China trade-war jitters. June gold closed up 0.6%, at $1,336.10 an ounce, while the commodity booked a weekly gain of 0.9%. The metal has posted a weekly gain for two of the past three weeks.
Oil prices ended sharply lower Friday, weighed down by rising trade tensions between the U.S. and China and data that showed an increase in the number of U.S. rigs drilling for crude. WTI oil for May delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange dropped 2.3%, to settle at $62.06 a barrel. For the week, the U.S. benchmark declined around 4.6%.
Digital currencies traded lower Friday, unable to capitalize on solid gains earlier in the week. The slide in bitcoin, which makes up 45.2% of the total market cap of cryptocurrencies, has pushed the overall value of the market below $250 billion, just about $7 billion away from making a five-month low. Bitcoin was down 2.4%, trading at $6,610.67, slightly off its overnight low of $6,513.10.
Futures followed the spot market lower. The Cboe’s April contract closed down 2.5% at $6,605 and the CME Group Inc. April contract finished the week at $6,630. down 1.9%.
Ether, which runs on the Ethereum network, lost 3.5%, trading at $370.14 late Friday.