U.S. stock futures were pointing to a lower open Thursday, with losses accelerating after the government released higher than expected initial jobless claims. A renewed tech stock sell-off pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average down nearly 2% and the S&P 500 more than 2% lower on Wednesday.
The Nasdaq was the big loser Wednesday, plunging 3% and going back into a correction, down nearly 12% from its Sept. 2 record highs. The Dow and S&P 500 were hovering just above the correction threshold, defined by a drop of 10% or more from recent highs.
Shares of Apple, a Dow component and a major broader market influencer, sank nearly 4.2% on Wednesday and were under modest pressure in Thursday's premarket trading. Apple has entered a bear market, down more than 20% from its Sept. 1 all-time high close.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell wraps up his third straight day on Capitol Hill, appearing Thursday morning along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin before the Senate Banking Committee for an update on the $2.2 trillion March coronavirus relief package. Powell has been telling lawmakers this week that the Fed stands ready to keep supporting the economy with monetary policy but Capitol Hill needs to do its part on the fiscal side.
About 90 minutes before Powell's scheduled 10 a.m. ET Senate appearance, the Labor Department released jobless claims figures, which showed 870,000 initial filings for unemployment benefits for the week ending Sept. 19.
That was higher than expected and higher than the prior week. New claims, which hit a peak of 6.9 million in late March as the economy shut down to try to slow the spread of Covid-19, were running above 1 million per week through late August.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he were to lose the 2020 election to Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Trump said that if mail-in ballots weren't used, "you'll have a very peaceful; there won't be a transfer, frankly, there'll be a continuation." Without evidence, Trump has condemned voting by mail as prone to fraud.
Earlier Wednesday, the president said he believes the election will "end up in the Supreme Court," which if his pick to replace late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg were seated before the election, the high court would have six conservative justices and three liberals.
The U.S. had more than 37,300 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, down from Monday's nearly one month high of 52,000. New deaths of nearly 1,100 on Wednesday marked the first day with over 1,000 fatalities since Sept. 15. At a Senate hearing Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said, "A majority of our nation, more than 90% of the population, remains susceptible" to the coronavirus. White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday, at a different Senate hearing, that the U.S. could have enough Covid-19 vaccine doses for every American by April.
Shares of Dow component Walt Disney, relatively steady in the premarket, lost 3% on Wednesday after the company moved a number of its movies to later this year and into 2021 as Americans continue to avoid indoor movie theaters during the pandemic. The much-anticipated Marvel blockbuster "Black Widow" was postponed six months to May. "West Side Story" was moved back a year to December 2021.
Shares of AMC Entertainment and other movie-theater stocks were hard hit by the postponement of "Black Widow." Many theater companies had been counting on the superhero movie to coax more people back. While theaters largely reopened in late August, box office sales in the U.S. have been dismal.
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