Stock futures lower as coronavirus relief package clears Senate


Stock futures dipped on Wednesday evening, after a massive, eagerly awaited coronavirus relief package cleared the U.S. Senate and headed for the House, with investors poised to take a breather after two consecutive days of gains.

During the regular session Wednesday, the S&P 500 and Dow posted their first back-to-back sessions of advances in more than a month. At the highs of the session, the Dow had added 1,315 points.

Yet by market close Wednesday, stocks pared some gains, after the bill with $2 trillion worth of relief for the coronavirus-stricken economy exposed intra-party divisions. Late in the afternoon, Democratic presidential contender and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders suggested he would be willing to hold up the bill amid a dispute with Republican lawmakers who called for changes over unemployment benefits provided in the package.

And others outside of Capitol Hill aired their grievances over the legislation. New York state governor Andrew Cuomo called the legislation “terrible” for his state, and suggested the aid allocated would not make up for the budget gap created by the coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus outbreak continued to escalate domestically and abroad, with the global case count topping 464,000 as of Wednesday evening. More than 64,700 of these were in the U.S., with New York state comprising the bulk of domestic cases.

Heading into Thursday’s session, investors will be anxiously awaiting the Labor Department’s weekly report on unemployment claims, which are expected to reflect soaring joblessness as businesses are forced to lay off employees as the coronavirus outbreak continues.

“We now expect the unemployment rate to peak near 8.5%,” JPMorgan Chase economists wrote late Wednesday. Once again, the bank lowered its U.S. economic forecasts for both the first and second quarters, to an annualized rate of -10% and -25%, respectively.

“Whereas normally a downward revision to 1H would be expected to result in an upward revision to 2H, we are leaving our second-half forecast unrevised at 6%, incorporating financial headwinds that should dampen the pace of recovery,” they added.

Though individual firms’ estimates span a wide range, consensus economists polled by Bloomberg project new unemployment claims rose to a seasonally adjusted 1.5 million for the week ending March 21, skyrocketing from the 281,000 during the prior week.

Ahead of the report, states have already signaled steepening rates of unemployment. California Governor Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that one million Californians had filed for unemployment benefits in the country’s most populous state since March 13.

11:55. p.m. ET Wednesday: Futures fall as Senate clears stimulus bill

Stock futures appeared poised to open lower on Thursday, as the $2 trillion stimulus package was finally voted up by the Senate and headed to the House. The coronavirus relief plan has been mired in partisan politics for days, but investors have pushed stocks to two consecutive days of gains. With the bill heading for passage, markets appear to have bought the rumor, and are now selling the fact.

Here’s where indexes traded just before midnight Eastern:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 2,447.50, -19.50 (-0.79%)

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 20,936.00, -90.00 (-0.43%)

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 7,429.00, -38.75 (-0.52%)

  • Gold (GC=F): +$8.50 (+0.53%) to $1,642.00 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX) note: yielding 0.869%

11:30 p.m. ET: JPMorgan slices economic forecast (again)

Trader Federico DeMarco works at the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, March 18, 2020 in New York. Major U.S. stock indexes closed sharply lower on Wall Street Wednesday as fears of a prolonged coronavirus-induced recession took hold. The Dow industrials lost more than 1,300 points, or 6.3%. After a brutal few weeks, the Dow has now lost nearly all of its gains since President Trump’s inauguration. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The bank is once again taking the knife to its U.S. recession call, seeing the world’s largest economy plunging by an annualized rate of -10% in the first quarter and -25% in the second. JPMorgan’s economists also expect the unemployment rate to surge to 8.5% by the time it’s all over.

JPMorgan is also slightly less optimistic about the recovery process:

A growing rift between the federal and state approaches to containing or mitigating the spread of the virus suggests the Chinese experience may no longer be an appropriate comparison. At the very least it should further depress sentiment and confidence in the institutions on which the market economy relies.

6:01 p.m. ET Wednesday: Stock futures roughly flat as overnight session kicks off

Futures for each of the three major indices were little changed Wednesday evening as investors hoped for progress toward the passage of a stimulus bill in the face of the escalating domestic coronavirus outbreak.

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 6:01 p.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): up 0.06%, or 1.5 points to 2,468.5

  • Dow futures (YM=F): up 0.04% or 8 points to 21,034.00

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): up 0.11% or 8.25 points points to 7,476.00

  • Gold (GC=F): +$8.50 (+0.53%) to $1,642.00 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX) note: yielding 0.869%

A woman walks on a nearly empty street near the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

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