Dow futures point lower as COVID-19 cases spur new lockdowns

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Stock-index futures traded slightly lower Thursday as a continued rise in COVID-19 cases spurred new restrictions on activity, underlining worries about the U.S. and global economic outlook.

The first rise in weekly jobless claims in over a month and a stalling of manufacturing activity also added to some selling on Wall Street.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 51 points, or 0.2%, to 29,342, while S&P 500 futures were off 5.40 points, or less than 0.1%, at 3,560. Nasdaq-100 futures declined 22 points, or 0.2%, to trade at 11,875.

Stocks fell for a second day Wednesday, extending losses in late trade after New York City moved to close public schools due to rising infection rates. The Dow declining 344.93 points, or 1.2%, to 29,438.42, while the S&P 500 dropped 41.74 points, or 1.2%, to 3,567.79. The Nasdaq Composite finished at 11,801.60, down 97.74 points, or 0.8%.

The Dow and S&P 500 closed at records on Monday, but have struggled subsequently as investors weigh positive developments toward a COVID-19 vaccine against the threat posed by a continued surge in infections and the lack of any progress toward additional aid spending by Congress.

“The death toll in the United States from COVID-19 has now surpassed 250,000, but what really shook Wall Street on Wednesday was news from closer to home,” said Raffie Boyadjian, senior investment analyst at XM, in a note, referring to the decision to close New York City public schools beginning Wednesday.

New York City announced the closure of all public schools after the city’s positivity rate from virus tests reached a seven-day average of 3% – the threshold set to keep schools open.

“Other states, counties and cities across America also tightened their virus curbs as infections are rising uncontrollably, showing no sign of plateauing and overwhelming health services,” Boyadjian noted.

On Wednesday, the U.S. recorded 172,391 new cases and at least 1,923 deaths, according to New York Times data. That lifted the daily average over the past week to 162,816, up 77% from two weeks ago. The number of U.S. deaths stood at 250,548 as of Wednesday.

See: ‘Depressed, disheartened and tired to the bone’: Coronavirus overwhelms U.S. hospitals

Meanwhile, progress continues toward a vaccine. Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE on Wednesday said their vaccine candidate was 95% effective, according to a final analysis of clinical trial data. Moderna Inc. on Monday said its vaccine candidate was 94.5% effective. Both are expected to apply for U.S. regulatory authorization within days.

On Thursday, British drugmaker AstraZeneca PLC said the experimental vaccine it is developing with the University of Oxford showed a robust immune response in older adults, based on data from mid-stage trials.

On the data front, U.S. applications for state unemployment benefits rose in mid-November for the first time in more than a month, pointing to added stress on the economy from a record increase in coronavirus cases.

Initial jobless claims increased by a seasonally adjusted 31,000 to 742,000 in the seven days ended Nov. 14. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast initial jobless claims to total 710,000.

Separately, a report on manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia area showed a fall of 6 points to 26.3 in November.

A report on October existing home sales and the Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index are scheduled for 10 a.m..

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index  traded 0.6% lower while the U.K.’s FTSE 100 index  also retreated by about 0.6%. In Asian markets, China’s Shanghai Composite Index closed 0.5% higher, the CSI 300 finished up 0.7%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng booked a 0.7% loss. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index closed 0.4% lower.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note  fell 2 basis points to 0.86%. Yields and prices move in opposite directions.

The ICE U.S. Dollar Index   a gauge of the greenback’s strength against its major rivals, was up 0.3% at 92.59.

Crude-oil futures  pulled back, down 0.6% after notching their highest settlement since September on vaccine optimism, to trade at $41.75 a barrel. Meanwhile, gold futures  fell $14.30, or 0.8%, to trade at $1,859.60 an ounce.

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