World shares skid after S&P 500 logs 1st monthly drop of ’21

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Stocks were swinging between slight gains and losses on Friday, closing out what has been one of the worst weeks for financial markets in months.

The S&P 500 index was up 0.3%, as of 11:20 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.6%, with help from energy companies like ExxonMobil who heavily influence that index. The Nasdaq composite was down less than 0.1%.

All three indexes are on pace for weekly losses. The S&P 500 is down 3% for the week, on track for its worst weekly close since January. The Nasdaq is down 4% and the Dow is down 2%.

Merck jumped 9% after the drugmaker released a study that showed its experimental pill to treat COVID-19 cut hospitalizations and deaths by half in people who were recently infected with the virus. So far there have been only limited proven treatments for the virus, including monoclonal antibody treatment which is expensive and harder to manufacture than a pill.

September was the worst month for the S&P 500 since March 2020, when the pandemic first took hold across the U.S. and the globe. Investors have gotten skittish in recent weeks as COVID-19 infections continue to spread across the country as well as political turmoil in Washington, where Democrats seem no closer in resolving issues like infrastructure, social spending and the debt ceiling.

Democrats remain in intense negotiations with both moderate and progressive members of the party to pass President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion government overhaul package. Democratic leadership postponed a scheduled vote on the bill, as well as a bipartisan infrastructure package that was negotiated in the Senate.

There’s also rising inflation. Oil prices are up nearly 1% this week, approaching a seven-year high, while natural gas prices are up nearly 10%.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, a benchmark for many kinds of loans, fell to 1.48% early Friday from 1.50%. It was trading at 1.32% just over a week ago.

Investors got one dose of good news. U.S. consumer spending rose 0.8% in August, the Commerce Department said.

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