Stocks – US Futures Lower; Economic Damage Mounts

U.S. stocks are set to open lower Friday, as investors focus on the mounting damage to the economy as global coronavirus cases leap past one million.

At 7:10 AM ET (1100 GMT), futures for the S&P 500 traded 24 points, or 1%, lower, futures for the Nasdaq down 75 points, or 1%. The Dow futures contract fell 228 points, or 1.1%. The three main indices are on track for their third down week in four.

The Covid-19 pandemic ticked off another grim milestone earlier Friday, with more than a million cases of coronavirus registered globally, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University, with the U.S. having the most cases.

Over 53,000 people have died, with more than 1,000 U.S. deaths in the past day, the world’s highest daily toll.

The widespread lockdown orders offered up to contain the spread of the virus resulted in an unprecedented number of workers – 6.6 million – filing jobless claims Thursday.

There’s more employment data to come at 8:30 AM ET (12:30 GMT), with the March official jobs report survey. However, this was from the week of March 12, before any major U.S. state had gone into lockdown. For that reason, economists are expecting a drop in nonfarm payrolls of just 100,000, according to forecasts compiled by Investing.com.

Additionally, a reading of ISM’s non-manufacturing activity index is due at 10 AM ET, and is expected to show a contraction in the services sector, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. European services PMIs sunk to their lowest on record in March, data released earlier Friday showed.

The U.S. economy will shrink an annualized 5.5% in 2020, the steepest drop since 1946, with a huge 38% contraction predicted for the second quarter, Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) said Friday. U.S. unemployment will also peak at a record 15.7% in the second quarter, with cumulative job losses of 21 million in the second quarter, the bank’s analysts predicted.

Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) and General Electric (NYSE:GE) will also be in focus after they both said they will furlough thousands of workers, to combat the loss of demand caused by the virus outbreak.

The oil market pushed higher Friday, continuing Thursday’s sharp gains, after a group of major crude producers confirmed a virtual meeting will be held on Monday.

OPEC+, an alliance lead by Saudi Arabia and Russia, is seeking other major oil producers, including the U.S., to join it in a deep reduction of global crude output to stem the sharp fall in prices.

President Trump has said he will meet with U.S. oil bosses later Friday, with meetings possibly stretching into the weekend.

At 7:10 AM ET, U.S. crude futures traded 4.6% higher at $26.46 a barrel, while the international benchmark Brent contract climbed 7.9% to $32.31.

Additionally, gold futures dropped 0.5% to $1,630.05/oz, while EUR/USD traded at $1.0808, down 0.5%.

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