Index ETFs Trade Mixed Wednesday As ADP Curbs Reopening Hopes

Stocks are trading mixed to lower on Wednesday as oil is slipping from yesterday, and dismal ADP Employment Change data are damping enthusiasm over plans to reopen the economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500, and Nasdaq are all essentially flat on the day as of 1245pm EST, as are some of the ETFs that track them: the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY), the SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (DIA), and the Invesco QQQ Trust (QQQ).

Private payrolls exposed a loss of more than 20 million jobs in April as companies slashed workers amid a coronavirus-induced shutdown that shuttered the majority of the U.S. economy, according to a report Wednesday from ADP.

The drop totaled 20,236,000, the worst loss in the survey’s history as far back as 2002 but still slightly better than the 22 million that economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been predicting. The prior record was 834,665 in February 2009 during the financial crisis and Great Recession.

“Job losses of this scale are unprecedented,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, co-head of the ADP Research Institute, which compiles the report in conjunction with Moody’s Analytics. “The total number of job losses for the month of April alone was more than double the total jobs lost during the Great Recession.”
Some analysts are optimistic that numbers may improve given plans to reopen the country, however.
“The worst of it is at hand,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “We should see a turn here relatively soon in the job statistics. At least for the next few months, I would anticipate some big, positive numbers.”

Yet, while many people and businesses are anxious to get the country reopened and operating, as usual, the World Health Organization (WHO) admonished world leaders Wednesday that there can be “no going back to business as usual” following the coronavirus pandemic, despite the damage that the coronavirus has wrought globally.

“This virus likes to find opportunities to spread and if these lockdown measures are lifted too quickly, the virus can take off,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s lead scientist on Covid-19, said during a press conference at the agency’s Geneva headquarters. “The only way to control and suppress this virus, this Covid-19, is to actually find [cases], quarantine those contacts, isolate the cases and it will be brought under control.”

The coronavirus has infected more than 3.6 million people worldwide and has killed at least 257,818 so far, with the U.S. leading the number of infections and deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said countries cannot “let preparedness go by the wayside. As we work on responding to this pandemic, we must also work harder to prepare for the next one. Now is an opportunity to lay the foundations for resilient health systems around the world, which has been ignored for long.”

“These are not just numbers. Every single case is a mother, a father, a son, a daughter, a brother, sister, or friend,” Ghebreyesus said.

While states like Michigan, Oklahoma, and California have radically protested the shelter-in-place restrictions and safety precautions such as donning masks when in public, Tedros urged caution to countries looking to loosen social distancing restrictions intended to stem the spread of the virus. He said reinfection and the risk of returning to lockdown “remains very real” if countries do not manage the transition “extremely carefully.”

With mounting pressure from individuals and businesses, however, some states in the U.S. are beginning to reopen businesses without regard for models that suggest such actions will result in a steady increase in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths during the next couple of weeks.

While social distancing measures put in place in numerous countries to slow the spread of the coronavirus have been successful, the virus remains “extremely dangerous,” WHO officials said. Current data show “most of the world’s population remains susceptible,” they said, meaning outbreaks can easily “reignite.”

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