Dow Futures Higher After Jobless Claims; Pfizer Slumps on Patent Waiver

Thursday's Bank of England rate decision could mark the start of a long march towards normalizing global interest rate policy as economies recover from the worst of the pandemic's damage.
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The Thursday Market Minute

  • Global stocks mixed as earnings power recovery bets, while investors eye today's Bank of England rate decision for signs of normalizing policy from the world's biggest central banks.
  • Vaccine maker shares slump as President Joe Biden supports waiving patent protections in order to accelerate global inoculations
  • Weekly jobless claims fall below 500,000 for the first time since the pandemic began, following ADP data that showed 742,000 new private sector positions were created last month. 
  • Benchmark 10-year note yields ease to 1.568% in overnight trading, while the dollar index falls 0.2% from a two-week high to 91.039.
  • CDC data shows 107.3 million Americans have now been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, with around 249.6 million doses administered as of Wednesday.
  • U.S. equity futures suggest modestly firmer open on Wall Street following better-than-expected weekly jobless claims and earnings from Viacom, Moderna and Kellogg.

Wall Street futures flirted with all-time highs again Thursday as investors looked to another key reading of the labor market later this morning while eyeing a potentially game-changing decision from the Bank of England that could mark the start of the long march to normalizing interest rate policy around the world.

Weekly jobless claims fell below the 500,00 mark for the first time since the pandemic began last year, hitting 498,000 for the week ending on May 1 ahead of tomorrow's April nonfarm payroll reading.

The BoE boosted its full-year growth forecast to 7.25% from 5%, while trimming the pace of monthly purchases in its quantitative easing program to £3.45 billion from £4.4 billion per week following its May interest rate decision earlier today in London, which left its benchmark lending rate unchanged at 0.1%.

Nonetheless, he changes could mark a series of normalizing moves from central banks around the world as vaccinations accelerate and recoveries take hold, adding more pressure on the Federal Reserve to follow suit.

For the moment, however, the Fed's united message on inflation risks, and its commitment to keeping interest rates at record lows for at least the next two years, is adding fuel to a stock market that is already buoyed by soaring corporate earnings, with more than 85% of the S&P 500 companies reporting March quarter earnings topping Street forecasts. 

Gains were capped in early pre-market trading, however, by steep declines in the pharmaceutical sector following President Joe Biden's support for a waiving intellectual property rights for COVID vaccine makers.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who will oversee discussions later this week, called it the “moral and economic issue of our time.”

Pfizer  (PFE) - Get Report shares were marked 3.7% lower at $38.50 each while Moderna  (MRNA) - Get Report was marked 8.6% lower at $148.90 each and Novavax  (NVAX) - Get Report slumped  3.44%. Johnson & Johnson  (JNJ) - Get Report, which has provided its vaccine on a non-profit basis, slipped 0.5% to $166.20 each.

Futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which closed at a record high 30,230.34 points last night, are indicating a modest 35 point gain to start the Thursday session.

S&P 500 futures, meanwhile, are suggesting an opening bell gain of 4.5 points and those linked to the tech-focused Nasdaq Composite, which is running a four-day losing streak -- the longest since October -- are priced for a 23 point bump.

Stocks in Europe tested all-time highs earlier in the session, supported by a series of stronger-than-expected March quarter earnings and a big jump in industrial orders from German, but slipped lower as U.S. futures eased heading into the Bank of England decision at 7:00 am Eastern time and today's weekly jobless claims reading.

Overnight in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 returned from a four-day spring holiday break to rise 1.8% and close at 29,331.37 points while military and political tensions in the region, largely focused on China's pressure towards Taiwan, kept gains for the MSCI ex-Japan benchmark to just 0.26%.

Oil prices also snapped a three-day winning streak as traders booked profits from a weekly rally that has lifted Brent crude prices to nearly $70 a barrel, with WTI slipped 33 cents to $65.30 per barrel in overnight trading.

The U.S. dollar index slipped 0.3% from a two-week high to trade at 91.069 against a basket of its global peers, while benchmark 10-year Treasury note yield eased to 1.568% in early European dealing.