(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures edged higher on Thursday after data pointed to a declining trend in weekly jobless claims, with investors also weighing the risk of another business shutdown as U.S. COVID-19 cases soared.
The Labor Department’s most timely data on the economy showed 1.31 million Americans filed for state unemployment benefits in the latest week, down from 1.43 million claims in the prior week. It also fared better than economists’ estimates of 1.38 million claims.
However, the labor market remains fragile as the United States reported more than 60,000 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, setting a single day global record.
While the recent surge has forced some states to roll back their reopening plans, market experts expect only a delay in U.S. economic recovery, with many seeing growth returning in 2021.
A batch of upbeat economic data including the record pace of job additions in June has underscored that the stimulus-fueled domestic economy was on the path to recovery.
The benchmark S&P 500 has risen more than 40% from its March lows and is now about 7% below its February record high.
“If we do see a further deterioration in U.S. case growth and therefore potentially some form of lockdown, in response some form of asset purchase extension becomes more likely (from the Federal Reserve),” Brooks Macdonald Asset Management’s Edward Park said.
“That’s why the market’s quite quiet, it’s the imbalance between those two factors.”
The three main indexes charged ahead in the final hour of trading on Wednesday, with Nasdaq logging its fourth record closing high this month powered by technology stocks.
At 8:50 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis 1YMcv1 were up 11 points, or 0.04%, S&P 500 e-minis EScv1 were up 6.25 points, or 0.2% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQcv1 were up 71.25 points, or 0.67%.
Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) rose 2% in premarket trading as Morgan Stanley upgraded its rating on the network gear maker’s stock to “overweight”.
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (WBA.O) fell 5.4% after it reported a quarterly loss compared with a profit a year earlier, hurt by non-cash impairment charges of $2 billion as COVID-19 disrupted business at its Boots UK division.
The second-quarter earnings season is expected to begin in earnest next week. Analysts expect profits for S&P 500 companies to plunge about 44%, the steepest drop since the 2008 financial crisis, according to IBES Refinitiv data.
Reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel
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