Stocks slip on China ten­sion, job­less claims

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - BUSINESS - By Alex Veiga and Damian J. Troise Alex Veiga and Damian J. Troise are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

Stocks closed broadly lower on Wall Street Thurs­day as in­vestors weighed more data show­ing the eco­nomic dam­age be­ing caused by the coro­n­avirus pan­demic and an­other flareup in ten­sions be­tween the U.S. and China.

The S&P 500 fell 0.8%, shed­ding some of the gains it made in a solid rally a day ear­lier, though it re­mains on track to end the week sharply higher. Bond yields were mixed. Oil prices closed higher, ex­tend­ing a string of gains.

Tech­nol­ogy and health care stocks took some of the heav­i­est losses. Only in­dus­trial sec­tor stocks eked out a gain. Home builders, mean­while, moved broadly higher.

“It re­ally looks like a lit­tle bit of weak­ness ahead of the long hol­i­day week­end,” said Ryan Det­rick, se­nior mar­ket strate­gist for LPL Fi­nan­cial. U.S. mar­kets will be closed Mon­day for Memo­rial Day.

The S&P 500 slid 23.10 points to 2,948.51. The Dow Jones in­dus­trial av­er­age fell 101.78 points, or 0.4%, to 24,474.12. The Nas­daq com­pos­ite lost 90.90 points, or 1%, to 9,284.88. Small­com­pany stocks have notched the big­gest gains this week. The Rus­sell 2000 inched up 0.63 points, less than 0.1%, to 1,347.56.

The sell­ing was ten­ta­tive at first, but gained mo­men­tum as the day pro­gressed. Ini­tially, traders re­acted to news that the White House had is­sued a re­port at­tack­ing China’s eco­nomic and mil­i­tary poli­cies, and its hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions. The re­port ex­pands on Pres­i­dent Trump’s get­tough rhetoric that he hopes will res­onate with vot­ers an­gry about China’s han­dling of the dis­ease out­break.

The State Depart­ment an­nounced that it had ap­proved the sale of ad­vanced tor­pe­does to the Tai­wanese mil­i­tary, a move sure to draw a re­buke from Bei­jing, which re­gards the is­land as a rene­gade prov­ince.

The gov­ern­ment’s lat­est re­port of ap­pli­ca­tions for un­em­ploy­ment aid didn’t help. The La­bor Depart­ment said more than 2.4 mil­lion peo­ple ap­plied for un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits last week. All told, the run­ning to­tal of Amer­i­cans who have lost their jobs in the two months since the coro­n­avirus led to a near shut­down of the econ­omy has climbed to 38.6 mil­lion.

De­spite a week of un­even fin­ishes, Wall Street is on track to re­coup its losses from last week amid fresh hopes for an eco­nomic re­cov­ery in the sec­ond half of the year and op­ti­mism about a po­ten­tial vac­cine for COVID­19. A strong rally on Mon­day re­versed all of the mar­ket’s losses for the month. The in­dex is still down about 13% from its high in Fe­bru­ary.

The Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors said sales of pre­vi­ously oc­cu­pied homes plunged 17.8% in April as the hous­ing mar­ket re­mained hob­bled by the coro­n­avirus shut­downs. The down­beat re­port didn’t hurt home builder stocks, which climbed broadly. The pull­back in sales came as the in­ven­tory of prop­er­ties on the mar­ket fell to a record low last month. Fred­die Mac said mort­gage rates eased this week, an­other fa­vor­able trend for builders.

Oil prices closed higher for the sixth day day in a row. Bench­mark U.S. crude oil for July de­liv­ery rose 43 cents, or 1.3%, to $33.92 per bar­rel. July Brent crude oil, the in­ter­na­tional stan­dard, gained 31 cents, or 0.9%, to close at $36.06 a bar­rel.

The yield on the 10year Trea­sury note, a bench­mark for in­ter­est rates on many con­sumer loans, fell to 0.66% from 0.68% late Wed­nes­day.

Court­ney Crow / As­so­ci­ated Press

Laura Peters of Mon­te­fiore Med­i­cal Cen­ter rings the clos­ing bell re­motely.

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