Jobless Claims, Jerome Powell, Coronavirus, Starbucks, Disney - 5 Things You Must Know Thursday

Stock futures turn flat though investors welcome signs that infections and deaths from the coronavirus could be peaking; weekly jobless claims expected in the millions for third straight week; coronavirus dents sales and profit at Starbucks.
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Here are five things you must know for Thursday, April 9:

1. -- Stock Futures Flat Though Signs Appear Pandemic Is Slowing

Stock futures turned flat Thursday though investors welcomed signs that infections and deaths from the coronavirus could be peaking and were optimistic that countries across the globe were working on plans to reopen economies stalled by the pandemic.

Enthusiasm was tempered by expectations of another sharp increase in weekly jobless claims, a stark reminder that the U.S. jobs market has suffered as the country went on lockdown in an effort to control the spread of the virus.

Contracts linked to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 39 points, S&P 500 futures slipped 1 point and Nasdaq futures fell 10 points.

Stocks finished sharply higher Wednesday as Wall Street weighed a leveling off of coronavirus infections in certain hot spots and efforts by the Trump administration to restart the U.S. economy.

The Dow jumped 779 points, or 3.44%, to 23,433, the S&P 500 gained 3.41% and the Nasdaq rose 2.58%.

Oil prices rose Thursday after Russia signaled it was prepared to make production cuts to help stabilize global prices.

OPEC+ members on Thursday are holding a virtual meeting at which they are expected to discuss supply reductions of as much as 10 million barrels a day. 

2. -- Jobless Claims Forecast at 5 Million

The economic calendar in the U.S. Thursday includes weekly Jobless Claims at 8:30 a.m. ET. Economists expect 5 million people to have applied for unemployment benefits last week, following records of 6.648 million and 3.307 million in the prior two weeks. The services industry has been hit the hardest during the pandemic, with massive layoffs at restaurants and hotels.

The calendar also includes the Producer Price Index for March at 8:30 a.m. and Consumer Sentiment for April at 10 a.m.

In addition, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will be speaking during a live webcast at 10 a.m. Powell is expected during his speech, hosted by the Brookings Institution in Washington, to discuss the central bank's interest rate cuts and other emergency measures meant to rescue the U.S. economy from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

3. -- Coronavirus - The Latest

The number of confirmed global cases of the coronavirus has risen to 1,485,981, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, and deaths increased to 88,566.

The U.S. has 432,132 cases of the coronavirus, the most in the world, according to Johns Hopkins CSSE. Deaths in the U.S. have risen to 14,817, trailing only Italy which has recorded 17,669.

New York, the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., reported its highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in a single day on Wednesday. Another 779 people died, bringing the death toll in the state to 6,268.

New research, meanwhile, indicated that the coronavirus began to circulate in the New York area by mid-February, and that it was brought to the region mainly by travelers from Europe, not Asia, The New York Times reported.

“The majority is clearly European,” said Harm van Bakel, a geneticist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who co-wrote a study awaiting peer review.

Italy plans to extend its nationwide lockdown by two weeks, while the U.K. also is considering extending restrictions it has so far put in place as the spread of the virus grows.

Boris Johnson, the U.K. prime minister who has Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, spent a third night in intensive care where his condition is improving, officials said.

4. -- Starbucks Says Coronavirus Slashed Sales and Profit

Starbucks  (SBUX) - Get Report said its fiscal second-quarter earnings will be cut nearly in half as sales plunge in the U.S. and China, the coffee-chain's two biggest markets, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The company estimated that adjusted earnings in the period would be 32 cents a share, down from 60 cents a year earlier.

"These estimates reflect the impact of lost sales for the period as well as incremental expenses for partner wages and benefits, store operations and other activities related to the Covid-19 outbreak," Starbucks said. "This includes inventory write-offs, honoring supplier obligations, store safety-related items, asset impairments and preliminary estimates of certain government stimulus program benefits."

Starbucks also pulled its fiscal-year guidance.

The company said U.S. same-store sales fell 3% during its second quarter. Same-store sales in China plunged 50% during the period but sales have been on an upswing as China loosens lockdown restrictions.

5. -- Disney+ Surpasses 50 Million Subscribers

Walt Disney  (DIS) - Get Report said Disney+, its five-month-old streaming service, has accumulated more than 50 million paid subscribers.

The company previously reported back in February that Disney+ had  about 28 million subscribers. Since then it has launched in iWestern Europe after kicking off in the U.S. in November.

"We're truly humbled that Disney+ is resonating with millions around the globe, and believe this bodes well for our continued expansion throughout Western Europe and into Japan and all of Latin America later this year," said Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney's direct-to-consumer and international segments.

The healthy performance of Disney+ is a bright spot for the media and entertainment giant, whose business has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic.