U.S. and European equity futures fell sharply in a risk-averse Friday, with investors rattled by news that President Donald Trump has tested positive for coronavirus just a month ahead of the presidential election.
Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell over 300 points, or 1%, with similar percentage drops for S&P 500 futures, while Nasdaq-100 futures were down 1.4%. Wall Street stocks wavered on Thursday, with the Dow Industrials closing barely positive and the S&P and Nasdaq Composite rising 0.5% and 1.45% higher, respectively.
The Stoxx Europe 600 fell 1%, with the German DAX dropping 1.3%. Several Asian markets were closed for holidays.
“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for Covid-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately,” Trump said on Twitter in the early hours of Friday. First lady Melania Trump said that she and the president were ”feeling good.”
Trump’s positive coronavirus test came hours after news that close senior aide Hope Hicks, who had been traveling with him this week, had contracted the virus. Trump’s age, 74, puts him in a potentially higher risk category for complications. The death toll in the U.S. stands at over 200,000.
The news comes just over a month ahead of the U.S. presidential election—Democratic rival Joe Biden has been holding a comfortable lead in the polls. Biden’s lead in betting markets rose after a chaotic debate with Trump earlier in the week.
“The reaction of equity futures was to fall by around 1% for the S&P500. Given that a Republican administration would have been superficially seen as more supportive than Democratic one, the odds are that we will lose another 1%,” said Nordea Investment’s senior macro strategist, Sebastien Galy, in a note to clients.
“Add to this the likelihood of more leaks from the NY Times or Washington Post and the probabilities of Joe Biden winning are increasing. Faced with this, the administration is likely to take a strong step early, likely against China. Hence, this shock should create a series of after shocks and volatility is unsurprisingly expensive,” said Galy.
Investors may have an additional worries if Covid-19 has spread to the top echelons of government, such as Senate leadership, as that would halt ongoing fiscal stimulus talks, said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst, Asia Pacific, OANDA, in emailed comments.
House Democrats approved a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus plan as talks drag on between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on an coronavirus aid deal.
News of Trump’s positive diagnosis may overshadow nonfarm payrolls data due ahead of Wall Street’s open. Economists polled by MarketWatch are expecting a September payrolls rise of 800,000, down from a 1.371 million gain in August. The unemployment rate is expected to tick down to 8.2% from 8.4%.
Elsewhere, oil prices also fell sharply, with November crude down 2.5% to $37.63 a barrel, while gold futures slipped. The U.S. Dollar Index edged higher, while the yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 0.66%.