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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Debt and war fears see stocks sink

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The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 95.28, at 11,092

Stocks sank during Friday’s shortened session as jittery traders were afraid to commit to any holdings ahead of the weekend amid lingering uncertainty surrounding Europe’s debt troubles and North Korea’s war threats.

European stock markets and the euro fell as worries mounted that Portugal would be the next country to need money from other European Union countries, even as details of Ireland’s bailout were being worked out.

Traders were also nervously eyeing North Korea’s threat of war, which could destabilise its neighbouring Asian nations.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 95.28, or 0.9%, to 11,092. The S&P 500 index was down 8.95, or 0.8%, to 1,189.40. The Nasdaq composite index fell 8.56, or 0.3%, to 2,534.56.

“Until there’s final resolution of both Spain and Portugal investors will continue to be fearful,” said John O’Donoghue, co-head of equities at Cowen & Co.

The euro fell to 1.3244 dollars in midday trading on Friday from 1.3368 dollars late on Thursday, earlier dipping below 1.32 dollars for the first time since September 21. The Euro Stoxx 50, which tracks the shares of blue chip companies in countries that use the euro, slipped 0.7%.

Consolidated volume on the New York Stock Exchange was 1.5 billion, which was just about a third of the usual volume. Trading desks were thinly staffed on the day after Thanksgiving. Falling shares outpaced rising ones by two to one on the New York Stock Exchange. US stock markets closed at 1pm EST (1800 GMT) instead of the usual 4pm. Markets were closed on Thursday for the holiday.

Friday also marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. Black Friday, a crucial event for retailers, was off to a strong start, according to early reports.

It was the end of a rollercoaster week. Stocks fell on Tuesday after North Korea’s shelling, but surged on Wednesday after a batch of economic reports buoyed hopes that the US economic recovery was gaining strength. The reports showed that Americans’ income rose and consumer spending climbed in October. And fewer people filed first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week.

Overall, stocks ended the week mixed. The Dow ended 112 points lower, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 10. However, the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index gained 17 points for the week.

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