Here are the most important news, trends and analysis that investors need to start their trading day:
- Dow set to open lower after closing down for third straight session
- GameStop sinks on lack of guidance; Lululemon soars on strong outlook
- United staff with religious exemptions to Covid shot must take unpaid leave
- Biden to unveil drive to boost Covid vaccinations, fight delta variant
- Ukraine to become latest country to legalize bitcoin as it goes global
U.S. stock futures were under some pressure Thursday after the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 closed lower for the third straight session. Investors get another report on the labor market before the bell that could go into the Federal Reserve's thinking about when to start tapering Covid-era bond purchases. Rising inflation and the delta variant are also wildcards. The Nasdaq, which had been on a run of record closes, broke a four-session winning streak on Wednesday as tech stocks faltered.
The U.S. government reported Thursday 310,000 initial jobless claims for the week ending Sept. 4. That's lower than estimates and a pandemic low all the way back to the week ending March 14, 2020, when new claims totaled 256,000. That was just before Covid caused historic business closures and job losses, leading to a rush for unemployment benefits. For the week ending Aug. 28, new claims were revised higher to 345,000.
Shares of GameStop, the original meme stock, lost 7% in Thursday's premarket, the morning after the video-game retailer reported its second-quarter loss narrowed on a year-over-year basis. GameStop, whose stock was still up more than 900% in 2021, did not provide an outlook for the coming quarters or take questions during its post-results conference call. The company also said the SEC has requested additional documents for a probe into GameStop and other companies' trading activity, which the company had disclosed in May.
Lululemon shares soared roughly 12% in the premarket after the athletic and leisure apparel maker late Wednesday reported second-quarter profit and revenue that topped expectations. The company has benefited from consumers buying its clothes for their stay-at-home wardrobes. But now, many people are also seeking out stretchy pants and other comfort pieces for their return to the office. Lululemon offered a better-than-expected outlook for the third quarter and fiscal 2021.
United employees granted exemptions to the company's vaccination mandate for religious reasons will be put on temporary unpaid leave starting next month, the airline told staff Wednesday, citing the recent rise in Covid cases. United also said that if an employee's request for a religious exemption is denied, they must be vaccinated within five weeks of the denial notice and get the first shot by Sept. 27, or they will be terminated. Airline approaches to boost staff vaccination rates have varied. Delta Air Lines, for example, is imposing a $200 per month surcharge on unvaccinated employees' company health-care premiums.
President Joe Biden is set to outline a six-pronged federal effort Thursday to boost Covid vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant, which is killing thousands in the U.S. each week and jeopardizing the nation's economic recovery. Biden is expected to push vaccine mandates for workforces and schools. He'll talk about new ways to increase testing and promote mask requirements. The president will emphasize steps to help the economy as well as moves to improve treatment for those with Covid.
Bitcoin was steadier Thursday after Ukraine became the fifth country in as many weeks to lay down some ground rules for cryptocurrencies, a further sign governments around the world are realizing that digital coins are here to stay. In a nearly unanimous vote, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted a law that legalizes and regulates crypto. The bill, set in motion in 2020, goes to the desk of Ukraine's president. Bitcoin was trading around $46,200 on Thursday, two days after a flash crash ended up knocking it down 10%. Bitcoin hit an all-time high over $64,000 in April but sold off in June and July, even falling briefly below $30,000. But since mid-July, bitcoin has largely moved higher.