Dow Futures Surge After Fed Launches $2.3 Trillion 'Main Street' Rescue Plan Following Record Jobless Claims

Just over 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Commerce Department said, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the world's biggest economy.

The Thursday Market Minute

  • Global stocks firmer as investors look to data suggesting a peaking in coronavirus infection and mortality rates.
  • U.S. jobless claims in focus as 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week.
  • Fed launches unprecedented 'Main Street' funding support plan that will pump more than $2.3 trillion into the U.S. economy.

  • Global oil prices remain active as OPEC leaders hold an emergency meeting to debate production cuts amid increasing concern for U.S. participation.
  • European stocks rise for a fourth consecutive session as EU leaders discuss what could be a $1.6 trillion rescue package for the bloc.
  • Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will speak at the Brookings Institute in Washington at 10:00 Eastern time.

U.S. equity futures surged higher Thursday after the Federal Reserve said it would launch a $2.3 trillion 'Main Street' rescue plan following data that indicated another record high surge in unemployment filings last week amid the escalating cornoavirus pandemic.

More than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Commerce Department said, taking the three-week tally to around 16 million as nearly all of the U.S. economy remains under some form of 'stay-at-home' lockdown amid the still-expanding coronavirus pandemic.

Stocks gained, however, after the Fed said it will use $75 billion in Treasury capital to purchase up to $600 billion in small business loans, and lend around $500 billion to states and cities around the country. The four-year loans will focus on companies with 10,000 employees or less, the Fed said, and will compliment the central bank's previous announcement of its intention to purchase municipal bonds.

The depth of the toll on jobs, however, has yet to be fully accounted in the broader economy, although analysts are now forecasting second quarter contractions in the region of 10%, with second quarter earnings for S&P 500-listed companies expected to fall by around 13.3% from last year.

Still, U.S. stocks look to have found a floor amid the record bear market that hammered benchmark indices late last month, with yesterday's near-800 point gain for the Dow Jones Industrial Average pegging it some 26% higher than its March 23 trough - but still 6,000 points shy of the all-time high it reached on February 12.

U.S. equity futures surged higher on the Fed news, with contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average indicating a 400 point gain and those linked to the S&P 500 suggesting a 38 point gain for the broader benchmark.

"I'm stunned by this," said the TheStreet's founder, Jim Cramer. "The Fed is determined not to be the reason if this economy slides into depression." 

Investor focus for the latter part of the session, however, is likely to shift towards global oil markets are OPEC leaders host an emergency conference call to discuss a collective production cut that could be as much as 10 million barrels per day - nearly 5 times more than the record 2.2 million barrels per day pact the cartel arranged in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008.

The agreement, however, could rest upon U.S. participation, even as President Donald Trump -- who first touted the OPEC agreement last week -- has insisted domestic producers have "already cut" by reducing drilling and export activity amid a slump in global demand.

Brent crude futures contracts for June delivery, the benchmark reference for around 60% of global crude purchases, were last seen 69 cents from their Wednesday closing price in New York and changing hands at $33.53 per barrel in early European trading.

WTI crude futures for May delivery, which are more tightly connected to domestic gas prices, were marked 74 cents higher at $25.83 per barrel.

Elsewhere, European stocks extended gains in early trading as regional leaders planned yet another teleconference to discuss an EU-coordinated response to the coronavirus crisis, including a plan that could see the bloc agree to a $1.5 trillion aid package, a tally worth around 2% of the bloc's GDP.

The region-wide Stoxx 600 was marked 0.84% higher in the opening hours of trading, lead by a 1.33% advance for the DAX performance index in Germany, while Britain's FTSE 100 gained 1.11% in London.

Overnight in Asia, a fading bid for the U.S. dollar helped lift the yen to 1.0867, clipping gains for the Nikkei 225, which ended the session lower at 19,345.77 points. 

Broader regional stocks, however, booked a solid 1.5% gain following a $17.7 billion stimulus announcement from Hong Kong and further gains for markets in India and South Korea.