Stocks set to open higher even as jobless claims climb to 3.2M

Stocks set to open higher even as jobless claims climb to 3.2M

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USA TODAY

U.S. stocks were poised to open higher Thursday as more states and countries start to ease restrictions on business, raising hopes for an economic recovery following a historic plunge. 

Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average climbed 300 points, after snapping two consecutive days of gains Wednesday. Standard & Poor’s 500 futures rose 1.5%. 

The gains come even as fresh data Thursday showed how badly the pandemic has crippled the U.S. economy. About 3.2 million more Americans sought jobless aid last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, bringing the total to about 33 million since the shutdowns began seven weeks ago.

That was fewer than the 3.8 million who filed the week before and down from the all-time high of 6.86 million applications in late March. Jobless claims provide the best measure of layoffs across the country.

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On Friday, a monthly jobs report is expected to show that the unemployment rate jumped to 18% in April — from just 4.4% in March, according to S&P Global Economics. That would mark the biggest single monthly jump since 1948.

As closed businesses shed jobs, S&P Global Economics expects to see an unprecedented 26 million jobs lost in April, the largest drop since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began the monthly survey in 1939. 

“The April number may be far worse when you consider the recently laid off workers who tried but were unable to successfully file their claims given the logjam at the site, as well as undocumented workers (many in the leisure and hospitality industries), who would not apply for unemployment insurance,” S&P Global Ratings said in a note. 

As more countries start to remove the draconian limits on business and public life, investors are trying to gauge how quickly the global economy might bounce back.

China reported a rise in exports as its pandemic lockdown eased. Comments by President Donald Trump raising the possibility of further trade friction with Beijing have worried investors hoping for better times as other economies begin to reopen from pandemic shutdowns.

Trump said he would soon assess progress in a preliminary trade agreement with China that took effect in January, extending a truce in a painful tariffs war between the world’s two biggest economies.

The possibility of revived friction over trade at a time when economies have been slammed by the pandemic and resulting travel restrictions has rattled investors in Asia, where China is the main driver for regional growth.

The Chinese trade data showed an encouraging 3.5% rise in exports in April, driven by electronics shipments and textiles, which included a surge in mask exports.

The data show China’s exports to the United States rose 2.2% in April, while imports of American goods fell 11% in a reflection of weak Chinese industrial and consumer demand despite the lifting of most anti-virus controls.

Benchmark U.S. crude surged $2.51 to $26.50 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 57 cents, or 2.3%, to $23.99 a barrel Wednesday.

In Europe, France’s CAC 40 gained 0.8%. Germany’s DAX also added 0.8%, while Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.7%. Most Asian markets slipped Thursday, but Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225, reopening after Golden Week holidays, gained 0.3%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.7%, while the Shanghai Composite fell 0.2%.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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