Dow futures turned positive Thursday after the Federal Reserve unveiled details of its much-anticipated Main Street lending program and other initiatives — $2.3 trillion in efforts aimed at supporting the economy. Later in the morning, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell talks at a Brookings Institution webinar about the central bank's coronavirus intervention measures. (The stock market is closed Friday in observance of Good Friday.) On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained nearly 780 points, or 3.4%, after Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the Democratic presidential nomination race. It relieved some of Wall Street's political concerns as daily increases in U.S. and global coronavirus cases have slowed since last Friday. The Dow, as of Wednesday's close, was still more than 20% off its record high in February. Depressed oil prices were getting a pop early Thursday on expectations that OPEC and its allies would agree to a production cut at a meeting later in the day.
Jobless rolls continued to swell due to the coronavirus shutdown, with 6.6 million Americans filing first-time unemployment claims in the week ended April 4, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That brings the total over the past three weeks to more than 16 million. But that number is still probably millions shy of the number of workers who may have already lost their jobs as the economy abruptly shut down due to the coronavirus crisis. In the last two reports, a total 10 million workers had filed for state unemployment benefits.
Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates told CNBC he thinks schools will be able to resume in the fall but the U.S. economy won't magically return to the way it was before. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has committed up to $100 million to respond to the coronavirus, has been working on global health issues and vaccines for years. Gates, a backer of an at-home coronavirus test, has said he would help pay for factories that can produce vaccines. During the interview, which aired Thursday on "Squawk Box," the Microsoft co-founder suggested that therapeutic treatments for sick people could begin to roll out in four to six months, but it would take at least 18 months to develop a safe and effective vaccine to prevent the virus.
Global coronavirus cases increased to nearly 1.5 million with 88,981 deaths and over 300,000 recoveries, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. remains the world's worst hot spot with more than 432,400 cases. That's more than the combined infections of Spain, Italy and Germany. Italy still has the most deaths: 17,669. Spain said its deaths surpassed 15,000. Fatalities in the U.S. rose to 14,808.
New York state's over 151,000 cases and 6,269 deaths are the most in the U.S. Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at Wednesday's news conference the outbreak could "stabilize" within weeks if the state maintains its strict social distancing policies.
Disney shares were surging over 5% in Thursday's premarket trading after the media and theme park giant announced that its new video streaming service Disney+ now has over 50 million paid subscribers. That's almost double what Disney reported in its first-quarter earnings in February. Disney+, which launched five months ago, was doing well even before of the coronavirus pandemic, which is keeping people stuck at home and spending more time online. Disney+ rolled out in the U.K, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria and Switzerland in the past two weeks. By comparison, it took Netflix seven years from its 2007 streaming launch to reach 50 million subscribers.