Stock futures open higher, recovering some losses

Stock futures opened higher Wednesday evening, recovering some losses as investors braced for extended stay-in-place orders and widespread shutdowns to further batter the economy and corporate profitability.

During regular trading Wednesday, stocks kicked off the first session of the second quarter lower, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq each dropping the most in two weeks.

An increasing number of states have rolled out stay-at-home orders to try and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, which has so far infected more than 209,000 individuals in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins data as of Wednesday evening.

The governors of Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Nevada announced some of the latest state-wide stay-in-place orders, joining those of more than three dozen other states in officially urging residents to remain in their homes as much as possible. President Donald Trump earlier this week extended the federal social distancing guidelines through the end of April, and Italy and Germany on Wednesday each extended their own country-wide lockdown orders.

While a necessary step to prevent the virus from infecting more individuals, the social distancing measures have also weighed heavily on economy and individual businesses, many of which have had to lay off workers as demand dries up. Automakers General Motors and Fiat Chrysler each reported steeper than expected first-quarter sales declines, as consumers shirked auto showrooms to stay at home.

Two separate reports Wednesday showed U.S. manufacturing activity dipped back into contractionary territory in March, with one underscoring the fastest deterioration in the sector’s output and new orders since the financial crisis of 2009. Another report on Wednesday showed small businesses lost 90,000 payrolls in March through the 12th of the month, reflecting the early impacts of the coronavirus on the domestic labor market.

Market participants will receive a more timely picture of the labor market on Thursday, when the Labor Department releases its weekly report on new unemployment insurance claims. As of Wednesday evening’s tally, consensus economists expected new jobless claims would total 3.7 million for the week ended March 28 – although at least two firms expected to see an even steeper 5.5 million claims for the week. Claims for the prior week had already come in at a record 3.283 million.

6:01 p.m. ET Wednesday: Stock futures open higher

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

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): up 0.66%, or +16.25 points to 2,464.25

  • Dow futures (YM=F): up 0.64% or +132 points to 20,872.00

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): up 0.55% or +41.25 points to 7,480

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 12: Signs with trading information are shown in the New York Stock Exchange on March 12, 2020. in New York City. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 2,352.60 points, a decrease of almost 10% and the highest since 1987. (Photo by Pablo Monsalve/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images)

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