Dow futures were pointing to a higher open Thursday after the government said over 4.4 million Americans filed for first-time jobless claims last week. That was slightly higher than expected. Later Thursday, the House is expected to vote on the Senate-passed $484 billion relief package, which would provide funds for small businesses, hospitals and testing. U.S. oil prices, which collapsed Monday on concerns about demand and storage scarcity, were rebounding for the third straight session. But the June contract was still around $16 per barrel in early trading Thursday, with prices off more than 70% from last year's 52-week high. Nevertheless, stabilizing oil prices Wednesday helped push the Dow Jones Industrial Average up over 450 points, or nearly 2%, putting a dent in the over 1,200 point declines on Monday and Tuesday. Heading into Thursday, the Dow was down 3% for the week and off 20% from its February record high, but it was nearly 29% higher than its March low.
It took only five weeks for the U.S. economy to wipe out all the job gains over the last 11 years. Combined with the four prior jobless claims reports, the number of Americans who have filed for unemployment since states started their stay-at-home orders and closures of nonessential businesses in mid-March rose to nearly 26.5 million. That number exceeds the 22.4 million jobs added to nonfarm payrolls since November 2009, when the economy began to add jobs back after the Great Recession. By comparison, about 8.7 million jobs were lost in the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis.
Target CEO Brian Cornell said the retailer has seen a sharp increase in online sales, as shoppers try to limit time inside stores or avoid the trips altogether during the coronavirus pandemic. Since its fiscal first quarter began in early February, Target's same-store sales have risen more than 7%. The retailer said the gain, which compares with an increase of 1.5% in the fiscal fourth quarter, is the result of a doubling of its online sales, partially offset by declines inside its nearly 1,900 brick-and-mortar stores.
Demand from consumers stocking up on essentials have also boosted business at Walmart and Amazon. Target also announced Thursday it will extend until May 30 its $2 per hour temporary pay increase for store employees as well as additional child care/backup care benefits and paid leave policy for older or at-risk members of its workforce.
Tyson Foods has suspended operations at an Iowa plant that's critical to the nation's pork supply. The Waterloo facility is being blamed for fueling a coronavirus outbreak in the region. Tyson also announced Wednesday the closure of a a pork plant in Logansport, Indiana. Several other facilities have temporarily closed due to virus outbreaks, including a Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a JBS USA plant in Worthington, Minnesota, and a Redwood Farms Meat Processors in Estherville, Iowa. Tyson has resumed operations on at its pork plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, which had been shut down for two weeks after an outbreak infected hundreds of workers, killing two.
After prodding states run by Democratic governors last week to reopen their economies, President Donald Trump took issue with Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's plans this week to reopen tattoo parlors, bars, hair salons and other nonessential businesses. Trump said Wednesday that Kemp's decision violates the White House's phase one reopening guidelines that recommend states wait to ease social distancing restrictions until there's widespread testing and a low level of community transmission. While seeing the rate of new daily infections trending lower, U.S. coronavirus cases rose to over 842,600 with 46,785 fatalities. The worldwide death toll increased to 184,267 on more than 2.6 million cases.