Traders brace for latest jobless claim numbers

Amazon, Apple and McDonald's will report earnings

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U.S. equity futures have pared overnight gains and are trading mixed.

The major futures indexes are indicating a slightly lower open.

The main economic event will be the release of weekly jobless claim numbers, which are expected to again be huge.

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The Labor Department is expected to say the number of claims for unemployment benefits declined to 3.5 million last week from 4.43 million the prior week. Estimates range from 2 million to 5 million. During the prior 5 weeks a total of 26.45 million workers have filed for jobless claims.

Personal income and consumption data for March will also be released. The expected 5 percent plunge in consumption expenditures would be the largest on record going back to February 1959.

Oil prices are continuing their extreme swings after a collapse in demand has sent crude storage tanks close to their limits.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil is trading up 16 percent or $2.49 to $17.55 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose $2.72, or 22 percent, to settle at $15.06 a barrel Wednesday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, is higher by $2.72 to $25.26 a barrel.

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Asian shares advanced on Thursday, riding a wave of optimism about a possible treatment for the coronavirus.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei surged 2.1 percent. China's Shanghai Composite added 1.2 percent. Markets in Hong Kong were closed for a holiday.

Manufacturing activity in China rebounded in March, but forecasters warn manufacturers might face a second dip due   to a possible second wave of the outbreak.

The European economy shrank by 3.8 percent in the first quarter as business activity was frozen by shutdowns aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

It was the biggest drop since statistics began in 1995

In Europe, London's FTSE is down 0.6 percent, Germany's DAX is off 0.1 percent and France's CAC is flat.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
I:DJIDOW JONES AVERAGES26763.13-525.05-1.92%
SP500S&P 5003236.92-78.65-2.37%
I:COMPNASDAQ COMPOSITE INDEX10632.985307-330.65-3.02%

On Wall Street, the hope about curbing the virus outbreak was so strong that investors completely sidestepped the report showing the U.S. economy shrank at a 4.8 percent annual rate in the first three months of the year.

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The S&P 500 rose 76.12 points to 2,939.51. It has surged 13.7 percent in April, and is a day away from closing out its best month since late 1974.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.2 percent to 24,633.86, and the Nasdaq climbed 3.6 percent to 8,914.71.

The spark for Wednesday’s rally was a report that the experimental drug remdesivir proved effective against the new coronavirus in a study run by the National Institutes of Health.

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The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that it expects the health crisis to weigh on the economy “over the medium term,” as it promised to keep in place massive amounts of aid and interest rates at nearly zero.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.