Investing.com -- U.S. stocks pared sharp losses on Friday but still closed broadly lower, as domestic crude futures dropped below $50 a barrel and a global bond yield crush spilled over into equity markets worldwide.
Investors continued to pile into safe-haven assets on Friday, as government bond yields throughout the world tumbled to fresh record lows. It came amid mounting fears of a potential collapse in credit markets, as yields on Japanese and Swiss 10-Year government bond yields dropped to their lowest level on record and yields on Japanese 30-Year bonds turned negative. In Germany, more than 75% of government bond yields hovered in negative territory, as the Germany 10-Year fell to all-time lows of 0.02. Consequently, equities in the euro area plunged 2% as financial stocks dragged down the major indices overall.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 119.85 or 0.67% to 17,865.34, while the S&P 500 Composite index dropped 19.41 or 0.92% to 2,096.07, bouncing from session-lows. The Dow fell as much as 172 points during Friday's session. On the S&P 500, nine of 10 sectors closed in the red, as stocks in the Energy, Financials and Technology industries lagged. Stocks in the telecommunications sector led, gaining more than 0.6% on the session. The NASDAQ Composite index, meanwhile, lost 64.07 or 1.29% to 4,894.55. Despite the sell-off over the last two sessions, the major indices are still up more than 10% from February's lows.
Yields have fallen precipitously over the last year amid a wide range of easing initiatives by top central banks worldwide. Earlier, this week the European Central Bank launched a comprehensive corporate bond buying program aimed at bolstering inflation. Investors also kept a close eye in developments in the U.K. after an ORB Brexit poll released on Friday showed that 55% of voters support a referendum to leave the European Union.
The top performer on the Dow was Verizon Holdings (SIX:VZN), which added 0.72 or 1.39% to 52.67. While the telecom giant reportedly increased its offer for Yahoo's (NASDAQ:YHOO) core assets in the second round of bidding to $3.5 billion, according to multiple outlets, the bid lags behind a reported $5 billion offer from top rival T. The worst performer was Goldman Sachs Group Inc (NYSE:GS), which lost 3.28 or 2.14% to 149.89. Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) finished just below Caterpillar Inc (NYSE:CAT), which fell 1.13 or 1.46% to 26.03. Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) shares slumped on Friday, as the British pound fell sharply against the dollar weighing heavily on global commodities.
The biggest gainer on the NASDAQ was Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (NASDAQ:WBA), which added 3.46 or 4.38% to 82.47. On Thursday, the New York Post reported that a proposed $17 billion merger between Walgreen's and Rite Aid could be on the verge of gaining regulatory approval from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The merger could unite two of the top three drug store chains in the country. The worst performer was Endo International, which fell 1.52 or 8.44% to 16.84. Shares in the specialty drug maker are down by more than 75% over the last year.
The top performer on the S&P 500 was HRB, which surged 2.69 or 12.49% to 24.23. Shares in H&R Block (NYSE:HRB) extended gains from Thursday's after-hours session, after the largest tax preparer in the U.S. topped analysts' earnings expectations and increased its quarterly dividend by 10%. The Kansas City-based tax giant hiked quarterly dividends, despite a 4.5% decrease in total returns over Tax Season 2016. The worst performer was Southwestern Energy Company (NYSE:SWN), which fell 1.59 or 10.79% to 13.15. Energy stocks weighed heavily on the index in Friday's session, as Devon Energy Corporation (NYSE:DVN), Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK), Murphy Oil Corporation (NYSE:MUR) and NRG Energy Inc (NYSE:NRG) also plummeted more than 6%.
On the New York Stock Exchange, declining issues outnumbered advancing ones by a 2,433-579 margin.
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