A fresh gauge of the pandemic’s economic impact arrives at 8:30 a.m. on Friday: the U.S. employment report for July. Economists’ forecasts vary widely, with a consensus pointing to a gain of 1.5 million jobs but some expecting a net loss.
In any case, the figure from the Labor Department is expected to be far less auspicious than the June gain of 4.8 million. And even an addition of 1.5 million jobs would be a small fraction of the 22 million lost in March and April, when all but essential businesses closed.
“The easy hiring that was done in May and June has been exhausted,” said Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America. “With many companies not running at full capacity, it becomes harder to get that incremental worker back in.”
There was a burst of hiring after lockdown orders were lifted, and it seemed as if the economy might rebound sharply in the late spring. But a surge in coronavirus cases in large states like California, Florida and Texas, and the reintroduction of restrictions, has dimmed those hopes.
“There is a lot of uncertainty this time around,” said Lydia Boussour, senior U.S. economist with Oxford Economics, whose firm estimates that employment dropped last month by 280,000. “The labor market has definitely lost momentum in recent weeks.”
Stocks were lower in Europe on Friday as investors moved cautiously amid escalating tensions between the United States and China over tech companies, and as they awaited a fresh report on American job growth, to be released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
European indexes were slipping in midmorning trading, with the Stoxx Europe 600 index down 0.1 percent. Asian markets ended the day broadly lower after President Trump’s decision to order sweeping restrictions on two popular Chinese social media networks, TikTok and WeChat.
Wall Street futures were predicting a downbeat start to the trading day.
Amid the uncertainty, 10-year U.S. Treasury notes rose in value as investors sought a safe haven, and oil futures slipped. Gold, which has been climbing since mid-July, was slightly lower, at about $2,060 an ounce.
Late Thursday, the Trump administration announced sweeping restrictions on TikTok and WeChat that would take effect in 45 days. The order essentially sets a 45-day deadline for an acquisition of TikTok, which is in talks to be bought by Microsoft.
The moves are expected to prompt retaliation from China. A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman called the executive orders a “nakedly hegemonic act.” Shares in Tencent, the parent company of WeChat, fell almost 6 percent.
Analysts expect that data to be released later on Friday will show that the United States gained 1.5 million jobs in July, as the economy struggles to recover from the pandemic’s lockdowns. But some forecasters say the data could show a net loss of jobs, because a surge in coronavirus cases has caused some states to reimpose restrictions on businesses. Over all, 22 million jobs were lost in March and April, when all but essential businesses closed.
China’s exports rose last month at their fastest pace so far this year, the country’s General Administration of Customs announced on Friday.
Chinese factories ran at full throttle this summer, after the government brought the coronavirus almost completely under control within the nation’s borders. Exports were up 7.2 percent in July compared with a year ago, far above what economists had predicted — and even as the pandemic continued to ravage other nations’ economies.
By contrast, the value of China’s imports actually shrank 1.4 percent last month, a worse performance than the modest increase economists had expected. The physical volumes of China’s imports kept rising last month, but that was more than offset by a global fall in prices for oil and other commodities that the country buys from abroad.
The combination of rising exports and cheaper imports means that China’s trade surplus is widening sharply. That could trigger trade tensions in the months ahead, particularly as other countries face job losses from economic slowdowns triggered by the virus.
Despite Friday’s strong export data, share prices had fallen 1.7 percent by early afternoon on China’s stock exchanges. Investors worried about President Trump’s executive order on Thursday that announced broad restrictions on two popular Chinese social media networks, TikTok and WeChat.
Denmark’s stock market is having a stellar year so far.
The stock indexes for the tiny northern European nation are easily beating out the S&P 500, which is up slightly for the year, and Japan’s Nikkei 225 and the Stoxx Europe 600 index, which are both in negative territory.
The Danish indexes, such as the OMX Copenhagen 25, are up more than 14 percent in 2020, or more than 20 percent if you calculate its return in dollar terms. That’s within spitting distance of other market bright spots, like the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite, which has climbed more than 23 percent on the strength of lockdown-friendly companies like Amazon and Apple.
What accounts for such a stellar performance? Experts say it’s a combination of several factors:
an effective response to the coronavirus crisis (assisted by the country’s robust social safety net)
a collection of companies well positioned to weather the crisis
a knack for well-balanced management
The main contributor to the Danish stocks’ performance is a matter of what the companies do rather than where they do it: Roughly 50 percent of the market capitalization of Danish stocks is in almost recession-proof health care and pharmaceutical companies — a solid portfolio in the midst of a global pandemic.
“The mix of the Danish market is completely different than you see in the global market, and there you have, sort of, the explanation for why has the Danish market performed so much better,” said Carsten Jantzen Leth, head of Danish Equities at Nordea Asset Management.