Futures rallied in Thursday’s after-hours session, suggesting Wall Street would extend the previous day’s gains — and perhaps test new highs on Friday — after a rough start to the week.
On Thursday, stocks notched slim gains in rangebound trading, but managed to stretch an improbable win streak into a third day, as traders struggled to decipher the meaning behind a surprise rise in unemployment.
The head-spinning reversal from Monday’s drubbing to Thursday mini-rally was part of the market’s attempt to calibrate a resurgence of COVID-19 cases against a red-hot economic expansion that continues to gain momentum. Even amid the turmoil and uncertainty, the major benchmarks are within striking distance of record highs set just over a week ago.
Sentiment took a hit after data Thursday showed an unexpected jump in jobless claims, which last week set a fresh pandemic-era low. New unemployment filings jumped to 419,000 in the latest week, well above consensus estimates of 360,000.
Since the onset of COVID-19, the data series has served as an avatar of the labor market’s health, and could take on new importance if rising infections start to trigger new restrictions — which may lead to another round of job losses.
“As with the recent resurgence in COVID cases stemming from the Delta variant, the jump in jobless claims is a disappointment. Recovery is never a perfect straight line,” noted Mark Hamrick, a senior economic Analyst at Bankrate.
Strong earnings have helped the market heal from Monday’s pandemic-inspired meltdown, with investors looking at the fundamentals rather than surging coronavirus numbers.
This week, industry bellwethers Netflix (NFLX), Chipotle (CMG), Coca-Cola (KO), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Verizon (VZ) topped market expectations, boosting a market that’s seen precious little downside in recent months.
On Thursday, Intel (INTC) Twitter (TWTR), Snap (SNAP) — the parent company of Snapchat, Southwest (LUV) and AT&T (T) joined the brigade of better-than-expected earnings results, with both companies bolstered by surging post-lockdown demand.
Monday’s selloff momentarily took the spotlight from quarterly earnings that have almost uniformly reflected a strong rebound. The rising case count driven by the Delta variant — a more communicable form of COVID-19 — pushed the Dow (^DJI), Nasdaq (^IXIC) and S&P 500 (^GSPC) to their biggest drop in months.
However, the signals emanating from the bond market are decidedly less enthusiastic. Analysts have pointed out that safe-haven Treasury bond yields have been the biggest beneficiary of COVID-19 fears, after having soared in recent weeks on inflation fears.
It suggests that investors could be parking cash in bonds because jitters over inflation or waning, or they sense weakness on the horizon — which may or may not be driven by the stubborn persistence of COVID-19.
“This move in the 10-year [Treasury yield] is significant,” Bank of America’s chief U.S. economist Michelle Meyer told Yahoo Finance Live on Thursday. “Market participants are saying that there potentially is a speed bump in this recovery, that the risks to the downside have grown.”
7:21 p.m. ET Thursday evening: Stock futures
Here were the main moves in markets, as of 7:21 p.m. ET:
Dow futures (YM=F): 34,765, +56
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 14,975, +47.75
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 4,370, +10.25
Javier David is an editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow Javier on Twitter: @TeflonGeek