Market Snapshot: Dow futures rise as market watches for jobless claims and quarterly results from Apple, others

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U.S. stock-index futures indicated modest gains Thursday morning, a day after stocks finished at the highest levels in weeks, as investors pored over a parade of earnings from blue-chip companies and awaited a fresh round of results from heavyweights Apple, McDonald’s and Visa, amid a flurry of corporate results wrapping up this week.

The European Central Bank also will offer its latest policy update after the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged at a range of 0% and 0.25% on Wednesday but vowed to use all of its policy tools to soften the economic hit from the COVID-19 pandemic.

How are benchmarks faring?

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average YMM20, +0.71% rose 133 points, or 0.6%, at 24,701, those for the S&P 500 index ESM20, +0.61% gained 15 points, or 0.5%, at 2,956, while Nasdaq-100 futures NQM20, +0.96% climbed 78.75 points, or 0.9%, at 9,113.50.

On Wednesday, the Dow DJIA, +2.20% gained 532.31 points, or 2.2%, to settle at 24,633.86, while the S&P 500 SPX, +2.65% added 76.12 points, or 2.7%, to close at 2,939.51. The Nasdaq Composite COMP, +3.56% advanced 306.98 points, or 3.6%, ending at 8,914.71.

The Russel 2000 Index RUT, +4.82%, which tracks smaller-capitalization companies, rose 4.8%, or 66.38 points, to finish at 1,360.46. 

What’s driving the market?

Stocks have taken flight on the back of hope of a coronavirus treatment and a pledge by the Federal Reserve that it will do whatever it takes to keep the economy from suffering a deep depression in the wake of the pandemic that has rippled across global economies.

The ECB and its head, Christine Lagarde, will provide the latest monetary-policy update at 7:45 a.m. Eastern, followed by a news conference at 8:30 a.m., coming after the Fed pledged to do whatever it takes to help ease the economic pain of shutdown protocols intended to slow the contagion. Investors might look for Lagarde to offer more guidance on what the ECB may do to end dysfunction among European leaders who have thus fair failed to coalesce around a rescue package for embattled parts of the eurozone economy.

On Thursday, Powell emphasized the limits of central banks to tackle the pandemic and pointed to lawmakers to do more to control infections and provide sufficient funding to restart the economy.

Check out: Federal Reserve chair Powell will put pedal to the metal to help economy: live blog recap

An early influx of economic reports may underline the pain ahead for Americans, with initial jobless claims likely rising to about 3.5 million in the week ended April 25, according to economists polled by MarketWatch. That tally is likely to bring total claims by Americans to almost 30 million, a shocking figure, among an array of horrific economic numbers, including a first reading on gross domestic product that showed the U.S. economy shrank at a 4.8% annualized pace from the beginning of January to the end of March.

Still, investors have bid up stocks lately, with optimism about corporate reports from Facebook, Microsoft and Tesla late Wednesday, perhaps reflecting more optimism about the domestic and international economy’s eventual recovery from the infectious disease.

Markets have been underpinned by reports of success from Gilead SciencesGILD, +5.68% experimental coronavirus treatment remdesivir, and the pharmaceutical company is likely to offer further clues about its drug when it reports corporate results later Thursday.

Looking ahead, investors will watch for quarterly results from Dow components Apple Inc. AAPL, +3.28%, McDonald’s MCD, +1.01%, Visa V, +6.15% and Dow Inc. DOW, +4.46%, which will be parsed to gauge the impact of coronavirus closures.

In other economic reports, data on personal income and outlays and a reading of employment costs will be released at 8:30 a.m., along with jobless claims. At 9:45 a.m., a report on Chicago-area business activity will be reported by the Institute for Supply Management.

Which stocks are in focus?
  • Inc. CRM, +3.86% late Wednesday announced it is canceling its Dreamforce conference, as well as its other major in-person events through the end of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Qualcomm Inc. QCOM, +4.88% topped Wall Street estimates after the closing bell Wednesday, and forecast a COVID-19-impaired outlook still was in the ballpark of analysts’ consensus, and said it still expects 5G sales to fall within its projections.
  • EBay Inc. shares(TICKER:EBAY) beat Wall Street earnings expectations.
  • Facebook FB, +6.16% missed earnings and user growth estimates, reporting first-quarter earnings of $4.9 billion, or $1.71 a share, compared with $2.43 billion, or 85 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Revenue grew 17% to $17.74 billion from $15.08 billion in the year-ago period.
  • Tesla Inc. TSLA, +4.08% late Wednesday surprised Wall Street by posting a first-quarter profit amid the broad economic destruction wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Microsoft Corp. MSFT, +4.48% outperformed the financial expectations that it faced even before the coronavirus pandemic in an earnings report Wednesday, reporting fiscal third-quarter earnings of $10.75 billion, or $1.40 a share, on sales of $35 billion Wednesday, up from profit of $1.14 a share on revenue of $30.57 billion a year ago. Analysts on average expected earnings of $1.27 a share on sales of $33.76 billion, according to FactSet.