Stock futures little changed as investors await stimulus bill

Stock futures were little changed Wednesday evening as investors waited for Congress to move forward with a massive stimulus package to ease economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

During the regular session Wednesday, the S&P 500 and Dow posted their first back-to-back sessions of advances in more than a month. At the highs of the session, the Dow had added 1,315 points.

By market close Wednesday, however, stocks pared some gains, after the speedy passage of a Senate bill set to provide $2 trillion worth of relief to the coronavirus-stricken economy appeared less assured. Late in the afternoon, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders suggested he would be willing to hold up the bill amid a dispute with Republican lawmakers who called for changes over unemployment benefits provided in the package.

Earlier, others outside of Capitol Hill aired their grievances over the legislation. New York state governor Andrew Cuomo called the legislation “terrible” for his state and suggested the aid allocated would not make up for the budget gap created by the coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus outbreak continued to escalate domestically and abroad, with the global case count topping 464,000 as of Wednesday evening. More than 64,700 of these were in the U.S., with New York state comprising the bulk of domestic cases.

Heading into Thursday’s session, investors will be anxiously awaiting the Labor Department’s weekly report on unemployment claims, which are expected to reflect soaring joblessness as businesses are forced to lay off employees as the coronavirus outbreak continues.

Though individual firms’ estimates span a wide range, consensus economists polled by Bloomberg project new unemployment claims rose to a seasonally adjusted 1.5 million for the week ending March 21, skyrocketing from the 281,000 during the prior week.

Ahead of the report, states have already signaled steepening rates of unemployment. California Governor Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that one million Californians had filed for unemployment benefits in the country’s most populous state since March 13.

6:01 p.m. ET Wednesday: Stock futures roughly flat as overnight session kicks off

Futures for each of the three major indices were little changed Wednesday evening as investors hoped for progress toward the passage of a stimulus bill in the face of the escalating domestic coronavirus outbreak.

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 6:01 p.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): up 0.06%, or 1.5 points to 2,468.5

  • Dow futures (YM=F): up 0.04% or 8 points to 21,034.00

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): up 0.11% or 8.25 points points to 7,476.00

  • Gold (GC=F): +$8.50 (+0.53%) to $1,642.00 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX) note: yielding 0.869%

A woman walks on a nearly empty street near the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

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