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Wall Street is set to open higher Thursday, with Nasdaq futures especially strong after robust earnings from Apple and Facebook sent those stocks sharply higher in the premarket. Three Dow stocks — McDonald's, Merck and Caterpillar — reported earnings before the bell. The government is set to release its initial look at first-quarter gross domestic product and its weekly look at jobless claims Thursday morning.
Those economic data points come one day after the Federal Reserve held the line on near zero interest rates and asset purchases. Central bankers also reassured markets that monetary policy would remain steady for some time despite a strengthening economy and rising inflation. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq dropped Wednesday. With two days left in April, all three stock benchmarks were solidly in the green for the month.
New York City will reopen in full capacity starting July 1, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday. "Our plan is to fully reopen on July 1. We are ready for stores to open, for businesses to open, offices, theaters, full strength," de Blasio said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." The city as of Wednesday had administered more than 6 million doses of Covid vaccines, with roughly 36% of the city's adult population fully vaccinated.
The government on Thursday reported the U.S. economy, as measured by GDP, advanced at a strong 6.4% annual rate in the first quarter, though slightly below estimates. Outside of the reopening-fueled third-quarter surge last year, it was the best period for GDP since the third quarter of 2003. Initial jobless claims totaled 553,000, higher than expected, but a new low all the way back to the week ending March 14, 2020. For the week ending April 17, new claims were revised up by 19,000 to 566,000.
McDonald's came in 11 cents ahead of consensus with adjusted quarterly profit of $1.92 per share. Revenue was also above forecasts, boosted by a better-than-expected 13.6% jump in U.S. same store sales. Shares fell modestly in the premarket.
A pandemic-induced drop in medical office visits was among the key reasons for Merck's earnings shortfall for the first quarter. Merck missed by 23 cents with adjusted quarterly profit of $1.40 per share. Shares took at 1.8% premarket hit.
Caterpillar shares gained 1.6% in premarket trading after the heavy equipment maker beat estimates by nearly a dollar with adjusted quarterly profit of $2.87 per share. Revenue was also above forecasts, as an economic recovery spurred demand for equipment.
Tech earnings continue to roll in as Amazon and Twitter lead Thursday's after the bell list, one day after Apple and Facebook blew past quarterly profit and revenue expectations. Apple also said it would increase its dividend by 7%, while authorizing $90 billion in share buybacks. Facebook attributed its strong revenue growth to a 30% increase in the average price per ad, as well as a 12% increase in number of ads shown. In the premarket, shares of Facebook surged 7% and Apple shares jumped 3%.
President Joe Biden takes his policy agenda to Georgia on Thursday, his 100th day in office. In his first address to a joint session of Congress, Biden on Wednesday night declared that "America is rising anew" and unveiled a $1.8 trillion proposal to invest in children, families and education. That's in addition the already-announced massive spending proposal to update the nation's infrastructure. Biden stressed that these efforts will create more jobs and boost prosperity for all Americans.
— CNBC's Peter Schacknow as well as Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow all the market action like a pro on CNBC Pro. Get the latest on the pandemic with CNBC's coronavirus coverage.