U.S. stock-index futures were ticking lower early Thursday after a series of gains pushed the Nasdaq Composite to less than 2% of its all-time high, as a gradual restart to the U.S. and world economies from coronavirus-induced closures helps support bullish sentiment.

Investors will be watching for a report on weekly U.S. jobless claims to gauge whether the worst of the impact of the viral outbreak has occurred, while investors will also watch for a policy decision from the European Central Bank, which could influence trading in U.S. assets.

How are benchmarks performing?

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average
YM00,
-0.08%

YMM20,
-0.08%

were trading virtually unchanged at 26,218, those for the S&P 500 index
ESM20,
-0.19%

ES00,
-0.19%

were off 5.20 points, or 0.2%, at 3,112.50, while Nasdaq-100 futures
NQ00,
-0.14%

NQM20,
-0.14%

were trading 0.1% lower at 9,671, a decline of 13.75 points.

On Wednesday, the Dow
DJIA,
+2.04%

advanced 527.24 points, or 2.1%, to close at 26,269.89, while the S&P 500
SPX,
+1.36%

rose 42.05 points, or 1.4%, to end at 3,112.87, the highest finish for both benchmarks since March 4, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The Nasdaq Composite Index
COMP,
+0.77%

rose 74.54 points, or 0.8%, ending at 9,682.91, or 1.4% away from its all-time closing high of 9,817.18 in February.

Read: The Nasdaq within 2% of a record high as the unbearable lightness of the stock market continues

What’s driving the market?

At least 1.8 million jobless workers are expected to have applied for unemployment benefits in the week ended May 30, according to economists polled by MarketWatch. That grim data however could underscore that the U.S. may be bottoming from the impact of the epidemic that has rocked the U.S. economy. The report is expected to be released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.

Private-sector employment data on Wednesday showed that a total of 2.76 million jobs were lost in May, Automatic Data Processing Inc. reported, but that loss was far less severe than the 8.66 million estimated by Econoday.

Equity benchmarks in the U.S. have rallied mightily from their March 23 lows, partly on the back of optimism surrounding the reopening efforts and evidence of a slowing spread of the deadly infection as the summer gets under way.

Trillions of dollars in stimulus from the Federal Reserve and the U.S. government, underpinning financial markets, also have helped to drive the value of assets considered risky sharply higher from their coronavirus nadirs.

Meanwhile, investors will be watching to see if Europe’s central bank delivers further stimulus to its battered economy. Led by Christine Lagarde, the ECB is expected to announce its intention to expand its €750 billion Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program, or risk disappointing the market. Analysts expect that to happen when the Governing Council concludes its meeting on Thursday at 7:45 a.m. Eastern. Lagarde will host a news conference at 8:30 a.m. Eastern to discuss the ECB’s policy actions.

Such a move would come as Germany, which has maintained a stance of fiscal prudence, last month backed an agreement, along with France, for an upsized €750 billion coronavirus European Union-wide recovery fund.

Thus far, civil unrest centered on the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of a white police officer in Minnesota hasn’t been reflected in stock-market trading, nor has rising tensions between China and the U.S.

The Trump administration suspended flights to the U.S. by Chinese airlines in apparent retaliation for Beijing halting American flights bound for China.

In other economic reports, investors will be looking out for a report on international trade at 8:30 a.m., a report on productivity costs at the same time and an update of the Fed’s balance sheet at 4:30 p.m.


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