Stocks – US Futures Lower, Consolidating as Virus Spreads

This post was originally published on this site – U.S. stocks are set to open lower Friday, with investors adopting a cautious stance ahead of the weekend after recent strong gains and as the number of coronavirus victims rise.

At 7:50 AM ET (1150 GMT), futures for the S&P 500 traded 71 points, or 2.7%, lower, futures for the Nasdaq down 197 points, or 2.5%, while the Dow futures contract fell 619 points, or 2.8%. 

All three major indexes have posted strong double-digit gains this week despite a difficult start, with the S&P 500 and Dow posting their best three-day run since the 1930s. This is on the back of unprecedented policy easing by the U.S. Federal Reserve and hopes of a $2.2 trillion government stimulus aid bill.

Still, there’s much to be cautious about. 

The U.S. initial claims data Thursday showed the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits surged to a record 3.28 million last week, showing the extent of the economic damage being caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Additionally, the U.S. has now recorded the highest number of coronavirus infections of any nation, including China, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker.

In corporate news, the Cheesecake Factory (NASDAQ:CAKE) disclosed Friday that it has furloughed about 41,000 hourly employees, citing closing of dine-in restaurants on the back of the coronavirus outbreak.

ViacomCBS (NASDAQ:VIAC) pulled Friday its forecast for the year due to the impact from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The media company also said it experienced production delays, but saw a rise in viewership across its broadcast and cable properties.

Additionally, Marathon Oil (NYSE:MRO) will be in the spotlight after its debt was downgraded to BBB- by Standard & Poors, citing weak market conditions and a poor outlook. The rating agency also downgraded United States Steel Corporation (NYSE:X). to B-, citing a weaker cashflow and a negative outlook.

Investors could keep an eye on the University of Michigan’s March consumer confidence release, at 10 AM ET (14:00 GMT). 

The March consumer sentiment index is expected to drop to 90 from the preliminary measure of 95.9, according to economists’ forecasts compiled by 

Oil traded largely lower Friday, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to slow economic growth and oil demand.

At 7:50 AM ET, U.S. crude futures traded down 0.4% at $22.46 a barrel. The international benchmark Brent contract fell 2.1% to $25.79.

Additionally, gold futures dropped 2.0% to $1,6217.6/oz, while EUR/USD traded at $1.1015, down 0.1%.