Producers of metals and other raw materials ticked up after a volatile session as investors weighed mixed signals about the implications of the coronavirus outbreak.
One central banker said the risk to the U.S. economy remained remote. "What we will be looking for is some body of evidence that suggests that we need to make a material reassessment of our outlook ... and certainly we have not done that yet," said Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Richard Clarida, as reported earlier.
Investors rattled by reports of an outbreak in South Korea bought into safe havens such as gold, which continued its recent streak and, after a sixth-straight gain, closed at the highest level since 2013.
"Unless we see confirmation that the spread of the virus is under control, it's going to continue to be a worry that will weigh on the broader market and drive people away from risk assets and to areas of safety such as treasuries, gold and other defensive assets," said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for adviser network the Independent Advisor Alliance, in e-mailed commentary.
Shares of Reliance Steel & Aluminum plunged after the industrial metals distributor warned that it expects prices to remain more or less flat in the current quarter.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it expects farm debt in 2020 to rise to a record $425 billion, up from $415 billion last year.
Anglo American, one of the world's largest miners, gave a full picture of fatalities related to its operations Thursday, a major shift in an industry that typically undercounts the number of deaths. Shares of the miner ticked up after its earnings report.
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