Stocks ended Friday's session weighed by growing concerns over nationwide COVID-19 lockdowns in Europe that raised fears about new restrictions beyond the continent, which pressured blue chip stocks, oil and the broader market.
The Dow slid 200 points, or 0.6%, settling at its lowest levels in 3 weeks and down1% on the week, while the S&P 500 notched a slim daily gain. However, the Nasdaq Composite set a fresh record, bolstered by rallying technology shares.
Markets were unsettled after the Austrian government announced a full lockdown starting on Monday, in response to cases of COVID-19 surging in Europe. The lockdown will include both those vaccinated and unvaccinated, it will last for 10 days minimum, but could be extended for 10 days further.
"The news is hitting European markets hard this morning as fears mount that the virus and restrictions will spread across the continent again," said Jim Reid, chief economist at Deutsche Bank, adding that "the curveball might be the U.S." given lower rates of vaccination domestically than in Europe.
"So although all the headlines are in Europe at the moment, will the U.S. be more vulnerable than many European countries over the course of the full winter? Recent history suggests the U.S. have a higher bar for economic restrictions related to covid but it also has a lower vaccination rate than their European peers," he added.
The Nasdaq was boosted by stocks associated with "stay at home" trades that characterized much of 2020 — giving a fleeting lift to stocks like Zoom (ZM), Netflix (NFLX) and Amazon (AMZN). Apple (AAPL), meanwhile, set a record high during the session.
Treasury yields, which have jumped in response to rising inflation fears, retreated early Friday as investors flocked to safe-haven assets. Brent crude (CL=F) sank by over 3%, reflecting jitters that lockdowns will curb energy demand, en route to its worst week in a year.
"Just like with the [strategic patroleum reserve] headlines on Wednesday, we estimate that this move lower has far overshot the actual fundamental risks due to low trading volumes," Goldman Sachs said on Friday.
Separately, cannabis stocks extended a five-day losing streak, as national legalization efforts in the U.S. seemed to falter. In recent sessions, investors have become skeptical about the regulatory change making it legal under the current administration.
The largest fund tracking the pot industry, ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (MJ) tumbled to its lowest price since last year and is down 60% from its high in February. But U.S. pot stocks are also lagging behind: Shares of Horizons US Marijuana Index ETF (HMUS) slid 12% this week and 54% since its 52-week high in February.
Meanwhile, shares of air carriers Delta Air Lines (DAL), United Airlines (UAL) and American Airlines (AAL), and cruise liners Carnival Corp (CCL) and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) all shed at least 1% on the day, as Europe's COVID-19 struggles revived fears about travel and leisure.
And with the holiday season approaching and cold weather driving more people to meet indoors, public health officials are hoping to mitigate another COVID wave of cases this winter. The FDA on Friday authorized boosters of the Pfizer/BioNTech (PFE, BNTX) and Moderna (MRNA) COVID-19 vaccines for all adults. Additionally, CDC's advisory panel unanimously voted to recommend Pfizer (PFE) and Moderna (MRNA) booster shots for anyone 18 and older.
The U.S House of Representatives on early Friday passed President Joe Biden's $1.75 trillion bill, however the legislation will be sent to the Senate where negotiations will continue. The bill lays out the Administration’s plans on education, healthcare and the climate.
"The Build Back Better Act, which was passed by the House today, would provide only a small boost to economic growth next year," Andrew Hunter, Senior U.S. Economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note.
"With the economy already running up against capacity constraints and any supply-side benefits of the plan likely to take time to feed through, there is a risk that it exacerbates rather than eases the economy’s near-term inflation problems," he added.
Also in focus for the markets is Biden’s Federal Reserve chair nomination. Biden told reporters on Tuesday to expect the announcement of a nominee for Fed chair in "the next four days."
The White House has not indicated which way it is leaning, but market participants see two leading options: the reappointment of current chair Jerome Powell, or the elevation of Fed Governor Lael Brainard. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that she expects there will be more to report early next week.
"The market so far is believing that it will be Powell again, but any sort of a change would mean that they want to hear a reiteration of the monetary policy and forward expectations," Sonali Pier, Pimco's Managing Director and Portfolio Manager, told Yahoo Finance Live on Thursday.
"[That means] tapering, being at a pace of about $10 billion in treasuries, $5 billion in agency MBS, then thereafter seeing rate hikes but not a significant shift to be more hawkish," Pier added.
4:00 p.m. ET: S&P 500 and Dow end lower after Austria lockdown
Here's where markets were trading closed on Friday:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): -6.01 (-0.13%) to 4,698.53
Dow (^DJI): -264.33 (-0.74%) to 35,606.62
Nasdaq (^IXIC): +63.73 (+0.40%) to 16,057.44
Crude (CL=F): -$2.90 (-3.67%) to $76.11 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): -$12.40 (-0.67%) to $1,849.00 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -0.4bps to yield 1.539%
3:08 p.m. ET: Goldman: Oil selloff looks overdone, brace for a return above $80
Crude is Friday's biggest loser, trading under $77 per barrel as Europe's struggles with COVID stoke speculation that global demand could take a hit. Even with concerns about China's economy, however, Goldman Sachs thinks the selloff isn't justified by fundamentals:
Just like with the [strategic patroleum reserve] headlines on Wednesday, we estimate that this move lower has far overshot the actual fundamental risks due to low trading volumes...We therefore view the move as excessive, especially as the oil market remains in a large deficit, and reiterate our $85/bbl 4Q21 average forecast.
3:00 pm. ET: Stick with the stock market, BlackRock strategist says
The stock market has been on autopilot in November, and it's not without rhyme or reason, said Rick Rieder, BlackRock's global fixed income CIO. Even with economic headwinds, stocks still have more upside, he said.
"I don't think equity valuations are that high when you look at free cash flow yields," Rieder told Yahoo Finance Live.
12:53 p.m. ET: The Dow Slides, Tech Outperforms
Here's where markets were trading midday on Friday:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): +8.730 (+0.18%) to 4,714.09
Dow (^DJI): -318.12 (-0.39%) to 35,732.83
Nasdaq (^IXIC): +109.71 (+0.67%) to 16,101.90
Crude (CL=F): -$3.01 (-3.81%) to $76.00 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): -$12.50 (-0.67%) to $1,848.90 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -0.4bps to yield 1.543%
9:30 a.m. ET: Stocks mixed, tech leads Nasdaq higher
Here's where markets were trading shortly after market open on Friday:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): -6.33 (-0.13%) to 4,698.21
Dow (^DJI): -214.78 (-0.60%) to 35,656.17
Nasdaq (^IXIC): +39.95 (+0.28%) to 16038.10
Crude (CL=F): -$1.51 (-1.91%) to $77.50 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): -$4.20 (-0.23%) to $1,857.20 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): unchanged to yield 1.6040%
7:30 a.m. ET Friday: Stock futures poised for mixed start
Here's where markets were trading Friday morning:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): -11.75 points (+0.25%), to 4,689.75
Dow futures (YM=F): -194 points (-0.54%), to 35,619.00
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): +54.75 points (+0.33%) to 16,536.00
Crude (CL=F): -$2.65 (-3.35%) to $76.36 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): +$1.90 (+0.10%) to $1,863.30 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -0.5 bps to yield 1.529%
6:28 p.m. ET Thursday: Stock futures open higher
Here's where markets were trading Thursday evening: