Dow Futures Slip Lower Amid COVID Surge, AstraZenca Vaccine Update; Weekly Jobless Claims Rise to 742,000

Wall Street looks set for another cautious open Thursday as coronavirus infection rates continue to surge heading into next week's Thanksgiving holiday.

The Thursday Market Minute

  • Global stocks slip lower as investors take profits from recent all-time highs amid a worrying rise in coronavirus infection rates.
  • Weekly jobless claims rise to 742,000, snapping a month-long streak of declines.
  • U.S. fatalities top 250,000, with at least 40 states counting record-high infection rates in November as colder weather hits the northeast and midwest.
  • New York City closes the country's biggest public school system to in-person learning, while Minnesota is added to the list of states imposing new restrictions on business and leisure.
  • European stocks slide, Asia trades lower on COVID-linked growth concerns; Tokyo on the highest of four alert levels amid record case increase.
  • Wall Street futures suggest a softer open following third-quarter earnings from Macy's and weekly jobless claims data.

U.S. equity futures slipped Thursday, while the dollar advanced along with Treasury bond prices, as stocks continued to peel away from all-time highs amid a worrying surge in coronavirus infection rates heading into next week's Thanksgiving holiday.

Stocks did get some support, however, from AstraZeneca's  (AZN) - Get Report, which noted that the vaccine it's developing along with researchers from Oxford University is progressing well, with late-stage trial data expected before Christmas.

That was somewhat offset by weekly jobless claims data that showed 742,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the period ending November 14, but from 711,000 over the prior week, snapping a month-long streak of reductions. 

Wall Street's late-hour sell-off last night, triggered in part by a decision from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to close the country's biggest school system to in-person learning amid rising infection rates, looks set to extend into Thursday as deaths around the United States pass the grim milestone of 250,000 and more state governors impose restrictions on business, travel and leisure activities.

The Covid infection increase could accelerate further, experts have cautioned, as tens of millions of travelers head home - many from hot-spot colleges and universities - for next week's Thanksgiving holiday.

In the meantime, the Senate's decision to recess for the Thanksgiving break signals little progress on a much-needed stimulus bill that would bridge the economy between its current consumer slowdown and the rollout of vaccines early next year. 

Collectively, the concerns are set to hit risk appetite into the end of the week, and possibly beyond, as the third-quarter earnings season draws to a close and headline support for markets wanes.

Futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were priced for a 70-point opening bell drop while those linked to the S&P 500, which has gained 11% for the month and is on pace for its best November advance since 1987, we're set for a 10-point pullback.

Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury bond yields were marked a couple of basis points lower at 0.855% in overnight trading while the dollar index, a measure of the greenback's strength against a basket of six global currencies, gained 0.4% to 92.688 in a defensive European session.

The Stoxx 600, in fact, fell nearly 1% in the opening hours of trading as investors worried that EU fiscal support would be delayed and infection rates in key European economies continue to spike higher.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 recorded its second day of declines, falling 0.36% to 25,634.34 points, as Tokyo record a record-high 534 new infections that put the country's largest city on the highest of its four-tier alert level, with officials mulling the closure of bars, restaurants and other gathering places.

Global oil markets also traded lower Thursday, even after the Energy Department said domestic crude stocks fell by a less-than-expected 780,000 barrels last week, as traders factored in the stronger U.S. dollar and fading end-of-year demand.

WTI crude futures contracts for December delivery, the U.S. benchmark, traded 61 cents lower from their Wednesday close in New York and were changing hands at $41.21 per barrel in early European dealing, while Brent contracts for January delivery, the global benchmark, fell 49 cents to $43.85 per barrel.