U.S. stock futures were set to open mildly lower as investors awaited data that is expected to show a record number of Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week following a wave of layoffs from the coronavirus pandemic.
Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average fell 300 points, a day after the blue-chip average notched back-to-back gains for the first time since mid-February in anticipation of fiscal stimulus from Congress.
Initial jobless claims, released Thursday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern, will offer investors clues into the duration and severity of how the deadly virus is impacting the U.S. economy. The data is expected to show that up to several million U.S. workers were laid off last week, the highest weekly tally on record.
“The number of job losses may allow markets to gauge the severity of the potential recession and move closer to beginning a recovery,” Burt White, chief investment officer at LPL Financial, said in a note.
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The data is set to come after the Senate approved aid late Wednesday to blunt the impact of business shutdowns due to the coronavirus that has killed more than 21,000 people worldwide. The measure goes to the House, which is expected to approve it.
Global stock prices have swung wildly as business shutdowns spread around the world. Investors say they need to see a decline in numbers of new coronavirus infections before prices can bottom out.
Confirmed cases in America closed in on 70,000, with more confirmations expected as the U.S. ramps up testing. The global death toll was more than 21,000, with total confirmed cases approaching 500,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell pledged Thursday that the central bank will continue to provide capital to businesses to help combat the economic damage from the virus.
“When it comes to this lending, we’re not going to run out of ammunition, that doesn’t happen,” Powell told NBC. “We still have policy room in other dimensions to support the economy.”
In commodities, benchmark U.S. crude lost 57 cents to $23.92 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 48 cents on Wednesday to close at $24.49. Brent crude, used to price international oils, declined 37 cents to $29.62 per barrel in London. It rose 24 cents the previous session to $29.99 a barrel.
In Europe, London’s FTSE 100 lost 1.5% and Frankfurt’s DAX shed 2%. The CAC 40 in France retreated 1.9%. In Asia, the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo declined 4.5% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.7%. The Shanghai Composite Index declined 0.6%.
Contributing: The Associated Press