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Stocks - Wall Street Selling Gains Steam

By Geoffrey Smith -- U.S. stock markets fell in late morning trading Friday after government data suggested that the U.S. economy shed jobs faster than widely expected as the Covid-19 started to hit and deaths in New York saw the biggest one-day rise.

By 11:25 AM ET (1525 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 370 points, or 1.7%, while the S&P 500 was down 1.4% and the Nasdaq Composite was off 1.3%.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics had said earlier that nonfarm employment in the U.S. fell by 701,000 in the month to mid-March, far more than the 100,000 drop expected.

Even those data have been largely rendered meaningless by the record spike in jobless claims in the two weeks since the cut-off date for the BLS’s report. In those two weeks, some 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits.

Later this morning, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said New York deaths from Covid-19 rose to 2935 from 2373.

Among individual stocks, the standout outperformer was Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), which said after the bell on Thursday that it had delivered 88,400 cars in the first quarter. The company noted that it deliveries of its Model Y crossover SUV had begun in January and continued 'well ahead of schedule.' Tesla stock rose 7%.

Carnival (NYSE:CCL) shares rose 3% as the market digested the cruise line operator's mammoth refinancing earlier in the week. 

Oil producers were also in the spotlight again, as newswire reports appeared to show the makings of a global agreement to cut oil supplies and rebalance a market that is struggling badly with oversupply due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The OPEC+ group of oil exporters, which includes Russia and Saudi Arabia, is set to hold a virtual meeting on Monday, while President Donald Trump is set to meet with representatives of the U.S. oil industry later Friday. Newswires reported a draft proposal from OPEC that Saudi Arabia was prepared to cut at least 3 million barrels a day of production, and Russia 1.5 million, if other producers such as the U.S., Canada and Brazil cut 2 million b/d.

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