Wall Street traders literally cheered on Friday the minute news broke that President Donald Trump fired chief strategist Steve Bannon, known as an economic nationalist and an advocate of "America First" policies.
Speculation that former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. President Gary Cohn, was poised to resign as head of the National Economic Council had roiled markets on Thursday, until the White House issued a statement that Cohn was staying.
Trading was mixed early on, but at roughly 11:18 a.m. Eastern after Axios reported that the White House was prepared to fire Bannon, CNBC reported. The S&P, which was down 5 points, jumped 7 points in minutes and gained another 5 points during the next hour. When The New York Times confirmed that Bannon was leaving at about 12:40 p.m., the market moved up another 5 points.
“Floor traders, who are overwhelmingly Republican, cheered here at the New York Stock Exchange when it was reported that Bannon was out. (Though, some later said part of that cheering was due to the departure of a colleague.),” CNBC "On-Air Stocks" Editor Bob Pisani wrote.
“They want a concerted effort to raise the debt ceiling, pass a budget resolution and then move rapidly to tax cuts. Friday's gains is the market's way of saying investors believe tax cuts are still alive,” he wrote.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 76.22 points, or 0.35 percent, to close Friday at 21,674.51, the S&P 500 lost 4.46 points, or 0.18 percent, to 2,425.55 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 5.39 points, or 0.09 percent, to 6,216.53.
Friday’s losses capped a White House-focused week that raised more questions about the Trump administration's ability to implement its pro-growth agenda, Reuters reported.
For his part, Trump applauded Bannon's return to Breitbart news, CNBC reported.
In a tweet sent Saturday afternoon, Trump praised the "tough and smart" Bannon, saying he would make Breitbart "better than ever before," and provide other news organizations with more competition.
Trump also thanked Bannon for his service in the defeat of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.
Meanwhile, Friday marked the first time stocks haven't risen the day after a more than 1 percent drop since Donald Trump was elected president on Nov. 8.
The week's losses further dented the post-election rally, which was built on Trump's promises of tax cuts and higher infrastructure spending.
Thursday's 1.5-percent drop in the S&P 500 came a week after a similar fall, and while the benchmark index still is up 13.4 percent since the election, it is down 2.1 percent in the last two weeks. That's the most since the two weeks before the election.
"While this mini correction we're seeing may not amount to much, it's probably caused by this escalation in doubt of all of these things that seemed hopeful to investors at the beginning of the Trump administration," said J. Bryant Evan, investment advisor and portfolio manager at Cozad Asset Management, in Champaign, Illinois.
Critics have accused Bannon of harboring anti-Semitic and white nationalist sentiments.
“Picking fights and getting criticized by members of one’s own party don’t help in pursuing one’s agenda,” Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, wrote in a note to clients Friday, Bloomberg reported.
Investors pulled $1.3 billion from equity funds in the week ending Aug. 16 as tensions over the Korean peninsula escalated, according to EPFR Global data. Outflows from U.S. stock funds were triple that, suggesting doubts about Trump’s stimulus plans are an additional worry. Heightened terror fears added to the malaise after at least 13 people died when a van plowed into pedestrians in Barcelona Thursday.
(Newsmax wires services contributed to this report).
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