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Stocks - US Futures Head Lower Ahead of Jobless Claims

By Peter Nurse    

Investing.com - U.S. stocks are set to open lower Thursday, with investors taking a cautious stance ahead of unemployment data which could vividly illustrate the economic damage caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus outbreak.

At 7:10 AM ET (1110 GMT), futures for the S&P 500 traded 25 points, or 1.0%, lower, futures for the Nasdaq down 64 points, or 0.8%, while the Dow futures contract fell 135 points, or 0.6%. 

Following days of wrangling, the bipartisan Senate unanimously passed a stimulus package to the tune of $2 trillion late Wednesday. The fate of the bill now rests with the House of Representatives, and a vote there is not expected until Friday.

The need for this stimulus is likely to be placed into plain view with the release of the weekly jobless claims report, at 8:30 AM ET (1230 GMT). This is set to offer the clearest evidence yet of the pandemic’s impact on the U.S. economy. 

A huge number is expected, especially after California’s state governor Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that more than a million people from his state alone had filed for unemployment this month.

“We have already got a few regional initial jobless claims, which unsurprisingly suggest a sharp increase in unemployment, as companies are shutting down and letting people go,” said analysts at Danske Bank, in a research note. 

“If jobless claims increase by the same percentage as in Ohio, national claims will increase to above 6 million."

“Just to give another example, 11% of all employees work in the leisure and hospitality industry (including arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services) and all those jobs are in danger in the current situation,” the bank added.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is scheduled to speak on NBC television around 700 AM ET, in an unusual appearance, which may provide more information about policymakers' response to the outbreak.

In corporate news, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is in the spotlight amid reports it is thinking of delaying the release of its latest iPhone model given the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Also of interest will be McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD), as the fast-food restaurant chain has decided to pull its all-day breakfast menu as it looks to make things easier for staff during this difficult period.

Additionally, investors are likely to look at Ford (NYSE:F) after S&P Global Ratings downgraded the car maker's debt to junk late Wednesday, saying the auto maker's credit metrics and "competitive position" were already borderline for an investment-grade rating before the coronavirus outbreak.

Oil headed lower Thursday, still under pressure as the pandemic continues to slow economic growth and oil demand, the latest blow to which came in the shape of India announcing a three-week lockdown earlier this week.

At 7:10  AM ET, U.S. crude futures traded 2.8% lower at $23.80 a barrel. The international benchmark Brent contract fell 1.2% to $27.07.

Additionally, gold futures dropped 0.2% to $1,630.45/oz, while EUR/USD traded at $1.0952, up 0.7%.

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