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Stock futures point to a flat open following Wall Street’s roller-coaster session

U.S. stock futures were little changed in early Friday morning trade as investors continued to weigh the prospects of a potential coronavirus treatment.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures seesawed in and out of negative territory in premarket trading. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures also pointed to a flat open.

The major averages were taken for a wild ride during the regular session after The Financial Times reported — citing documents accidentally published by the World Health Organization — that Gilead Sciences’ drug remdesivir did not improve coronavirus patients’ condition. The documents cited by the FT referred to a Chinese clinical trial.

Gilead noted that study was “terminated early due to low enrollment,” leaving it “underpowered to enable statistically meaningful conclusions. As such, the study results are inconclusive.”


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The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite closed just below the flatline on Thursday while the Dow eked out a small gain. At their session highs, however, the averages were all up more than 1%.

To be sure, CNBC’s Jim Cramer raised doubt over the trial conducted in China, advising investors to wait for results from U.S. studies before disregarding the treatment.

“I say wait until the American studies come out,” Cramer said in a tweet. “University of Chicago study is a lot more rigorous. I would stick with that. You don’t have to believe it…but this is the third time the Chinese have said the drug doesn’t work.”

The coronavirus outbreak has dominated market sentiment for most of 2020 as investors grapple with its economic consequences.

More than 2.6 million cases have been confirmed worldwide, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. In the U.S., over 800,000 cases have been confirmed. However, a decline in new daily cases has boosted equities from their lows reached on March 23.

The major averages have rallied more than 25% since late March, with the S&P 500 retracing about half of its downside move from the all-time high set Feb. 19.

The news on remdesivir knocked the major averages from their session highs, but another sharp rebound in oil prices capped the decline in equities.

U.S. crude futures for June delivery surged 19.7% to settle at $16.50 per barrel amid increasing bets for a U.S. production cut. Thursday’s gains brought oil’s two-day gains to more than 40%.

Still, West Texas Intermediate remains down more than 70% for the year despite the strong back-to-back gains.

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An unemployment rate of 23%? The real jobless picture is coming together

As the economic shutdown associated with coronavirus prevention measures nears the completion of its first full calendar month, a clearer picture is emerging of just how hard the hit has been to U.S. workers.


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An economy that had been near full employment just two months ago is now in its most dire straits since the Great Depression. New filings for weekly jobless claims, reported Thursday, added to the gloom with another 4.4 million applying for unemployment insurance.

That brought the five-week total to more than 26 million. While bad enough on its own, it helped to complete a picture that likely will show the U.S. with its highest unemployment rate in about 87 years.

How high that number will get is still unclear when the Labor Department reports the April nonfarm payrolls data in two weeks.

However, the current numbers look bad. The amount of people getting benefits compared with the total size of the labor force, a measure the government calls the “insured unemployment rate,” is at 11%, the Labor Department said.

Rolling in the rest of the jobless pushes the headline unemployment rate that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports to a “barely believable” 23%, said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics.

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Most economists, though, think the actual reading likely will be closer to 10% to 15% due to the vagaries of how the BLS computes the rate. Ashworth himself sees the level at the high end of that range, though he said it may not be quite as bad as it looks on the surface.

“A surge in the unemployment rate to more than 15% would invite comparisons with the Great Depression, but we think those are misplaced because many of the unemployed will return to paid employment when the lockdowns are lifted,” Ashworth said in a note. “Nearly all of the increase in unemployment in March was due to temporary layoffs rather than permanent job losses.”

Ashworth expects the unemployment rate to come down quickly once the economy restarts — perhaps falling to 10% by summer and below 7% by the end of the year.

Federal Reserve economists released a study a week ago that has grabbed some attention on Wall Street. The central bank, studying weekly payroll data from processing firm ADP, indeed found that of the 18 million or so jobs lost in the first weeks of the lockdown were largely temporary layoffs.

Those separations, though, were more than double the 8.8 million jobs during the entire Great Recession, the Fed found.

That total is important as it will provide a fuller picture of the jobs situation than was apparent from the March report earlier this month. That count showed a decline of 701,000 but did not represent the full damage because the sampling happened before the worst of the job losses. The Fed estimated that 13 million more jobs were lost in the last two weeks of the month, after the period the BLS used for its estimate.


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Rolling together all the data since the sample week for the March jobs report shows about 25 million people newly unemployed, which would indicate a jobless rate of about 20%, said Citigroup economist Veronica Clark. However, she also thinks the actual number will be lower in part because a number of those filing for benefits while waiting to go back to work will not be counted in the unemployment rate.

At the same time, she said the worst of the unemployment news may be behind us.

“While still at a very elevated level, it is a positive sign that initial filings for unemployment benefits appear to have passed their peak following the initial wave of job losses in late-March/early-April,” Clark wrote. “We expect initial claims to continue to decline over the coming weeks, reflecting resolutions of capacity issues at state offices, as people who were not previously able to file a claim given the volume are now able to get through.”

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US stock futures are flat as investors digest oil turbulence, await jobless claims

U.S. stock futures were nearly flat in early morning trade Thursday as investors took a breather after the turbulence of the prior three regular sessions.


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Dow Jones Industrial Average futures implied an opening drop of about 25 points. S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures also pointed to a flat open.

The muted moves followed a bounce in U.S. equities during normal trading hours on Wednesday that helped pare the S&P 500′s 4.8% slide over Monday and Tuesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 456.94 points, or 1.99%, to 23,475.82 during Wednesday’s session. The S&P 500 gained 2.29% to 2,799.31 while the Nasdaq Composite closed 2.8% higher at 8,495.38.

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Violent fluctuations in the price of oil have kept markets on edge this week as a slide in demand the result of the coronavirus and persistent oversupply keep pressure on crude.

Though West Texas Intermediate crude is down more than 70% from highs north of $60 per barrel earlier this year, its bounce on Wednesday pacified investors who worried that the futures contracts could fall back into negative territory as they did on Monday.

The contract for June delivery settled up 19% at $13.78 per barrel on Wednesday after President Donald Trump tweeted that he’d “instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.”

WTI contract for May delivery plunged below zero to trade in negative territory on the first day of the week for the first time ever. A day later, the more actively traded June contract fell 43.37% to settle at $11.57. Brent and WTI crude futures were last seen trading up 8% and 3.7%, respectively.

U.S. traders will on Thursday digest the Labor Department’s latest report on jobless claims.

Another 4.3 million workers are expected to have filed for benefits last week, which would bring the total number seeking benefits to over 26 million since states started shutting down in the second half of March in an effort to slow the virus.

The number of cumulative claims rose to 22.025 million over four weeks prior, erasing nearly all of the 22.442 million jobs recovered since the Great Recession.

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US stock futures higher as Wall Street looks to rebound from two days of steep losses

U.S. stock futures pointed to gains at the open on Wednesday, following recent weakness in markets aggravated by oil’s massive decline.


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Dow futures implied a gain of about 350 points at the open. Futures for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 also pointed to gains at the open.

The West Texas Intermediate contract for June, however, remained in negative territory as it fell around 1% to $11.46 per barrel.

Helping sentiment, Senate Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday passed a $484 billion coronavirus relief package that focused on small businesses, hospitals, and testing. The House could approve the bill as early as Thursday.

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On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost about 630 points, bringing its weekly decline to more than 1,000 points. The 30-stock index was dragged down by Merck, which lost 5.5%, and Boeing, which fell more than 5%.

The S&P 500 also experienced sharp declines, falling more than 3%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite dropped about 3.5%, its worst daily performance since April 1.

The market’s sell-off this week came beside massive losses in the oil market due to the evaporation of demand. Oil prices are tanking and spreading to more futures contracts, worrying investors about the deep economic damage being done by the coronavirus shutdowns.

“This week investors are realizing that even though the crisis could soon get better, the negative impacts of having an economy which is essentially shut down are magnifying at an alarming rate. With no demand even for a couple of months, energy prices go negative as excess oil supplies balloon,” Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at the Leuthold Group told CNBC.

The June contract for West Texas Intermediate, which is the more actively traded contract and therefore a better indication of how Wall Street views the price of oil, settled down 43.4% at $11.57 per barrel. On Monday, crude futures for May fell below zero for the first time in history.


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Investors also digested another batch of corporate earnings showing the economic fallout of the virus on Tuesday. Shares of IBM fell 3% after reporting a decline in revenue. Coca-Cola fell 2.5% as the beverage company said global volumes plunged 25% due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Netflix and Chipotle Mexican Grill both rose in extended trading following their quarterly earnings reports. Netflix reported global streaming net additions came in a 15.8 million, far higher than the 8.2 million expected. Netflix, which has rallied nearly 35% this year, is benefiting from the stay-at-home trend. Chipotle saw digital sales surge more than 80% as the revved-up online orders during the coronavirus shutdown.

Before the bell on Wednesday, Delta Air Lines, AT&T, and Biogen will report earnings.

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