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Coronavirus Vaccine, Unemployment, Nvidia - 5 Things You Must Know Thursday

Stock futures fall after President Trump criticizes China's leadership; Nvidia reports earnings; AstraZeneca gets $1 billion for manufacture of coronavirus vaccine.

Here are five things you must know for Thursday, May 21:

1. -- Stock Futures Fall on Concerns Over U.S.-China Relationship

Stock futures were lower Thursday after President Donald Trump criticized China's leadership, further straining the relationship between the world's two largest economies, and as Wall Street braced for the latest data on jobless claims.

Contracts linked to the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 136 points, futures for the S&P 500 declined 16 points and Nasdaq futures were down 44 points.

In a series of tweets, Trump criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping saying a "disinformation and propaganda attack on the United States and Europe” by China "all comes from the top."

Trump's tweets followed passage of a bill by the U.S. Senate Wednesday that could bar some Chinese companies, such as Alibaba  (BABA) , from listing on U.S. stock exchanges.

As for jobless claims, economists estimate the number of Americans seeking first-time unemployment benefits at 2.375 million for the week ended May 16 vs. 2.981 million in the previous week. That would bring the number of Americans who have lost jobs during the coronavirus pandemic to almost 39 million.

Stocks finished higher Wednesday, rebounding from the previous session's losses, as retailers posted strong quarterly earnings, Facebook  (FB)  and  (AMZN)  posted record highs, and Wall Street looked to the reopening of the U.S. economy.

The Dow rose 369 points, or 1.5% to 24,576, the S&P 500 gained 1.67% to finish at its highest closing level since early March, and the Nasdaq jumped 2.1%.

With Round-the-Clock News, Futures Are Often the First to Respond

2. -- Nvidia and TJX Report Earnings

Best Buy  (BBY)  posted stronger-than-expected first-quarter earnings as a surge in online electronics sales offset store closures during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. The company suspended its full-year profit guidance.

Earnings reports are expected Thursday from Nvidia  (NVDA) , TJX Cos.  (TJX) , Nordstrom  (JWN) , Palo Alto Networks  (PANW) , Hewlett Packard Enterprise  (HPE) , Splunk  (SPLK) , Medtronic  (MDT) , Intuit  (INTU) , Deckers Outdoor  (DECK)  and Hormel Foods  (HRL) .

Nvidia Reports Earnings Soon: 5 Important Things to Watch

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3. -- AstraZeneca Gets $1 Billion to Make Coronavirus Vaccine

AstraZeneca  (AZN)  has received more than $1 billion from the U.S. government to boost manufacturing of an experimental coronavirus  vaccine from the University of Oxford.

The company said it received the funding from the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for the development, production and delivery of the vaccine.

AstraZeneca said Thursday it has concluded the first agreements for at least 400 million doses and has secured total manufacturing capacity for 1 billion doses.

AstraZeneca said it would begin the first deliveries in September.

The race for a vaccine has been accelerating, particularly after the number of global coronavirus infections has continued to rise as lockdowns worldwide are lifted. The number of confirmed global cases has surpassed 5 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.

4. -- Trump to Visit Ford Plant - Will He Wear a Mask?

Donald Trump will visit a Ford  (F)  plant near Detroit Thursday but it's not clear whether he will wear a mask as required of everyone in the automaker's factories.

Ford said it has shared with the White House it's policy that everyone in its factories wear personal protective equipment, including masks. When asked if the company would require Trump to wear the equipment, spokeswoman Rachel McCleery told the Associated Press, “The White House has its own safety and testing policies in place and will make its own determination.”

Trump's visit comes just as Ford temporarily halted production both Tuesday and Wednesday at two assembly plants after three workers tested positive for the coronavirus. 

5. -- Take-Two Interactive Posts Surge in Net Bookings

Take-Two Interactive  (TTWO)  was falling in premarket trading Thursday even after the videogame publisher reported fiscal fourth-quarter earnings that beat Wall Street estimates and issued a forecast also ahead of forecasts.

The company earned $1.07 a share in the quarter on net bookings of $729 million, an increase of 49% from a year earlier. Analysts were expecting profit of 91 cents a share on net bookings of $582 million. 

Take-Two, the publisher of titles such as "NBA 2K20" and "Grand Theft Auto Online," expects net bookings in its fiscal first quarter of between $800 million and $850 million.

"This was an excellent quarter and it confirmed what we expected, that Take-Two has greatly benefited from people staying at home and seeking more forms of entertainment," said Jim Cramer and the Action Alerts PLUS team, which holds Take-Two in its portfolio. "Yes, guidance for the full year was light, however, we believe this simply was pure conservatism, because of the lack of titles in the pipeline. We would be more skeptical about Take-Two's ability to deliver if the company wasn't monetizing well (it is) and if interactive entertainment like gaming wasn't increasing in popularity (it is)."

The stock declined 4.52% to $140.20 in premarket trading.