Stock futures roughly flat after S&P 500’s highest close since early March

Stock futures were little changed at the start of overnight trading Wednesday evening, holding gains after the S&P 500 pushed to an 11-week high.

So far this week, investors have been weighing signs of stabilizing US economic activity after last month’s deep downturn, along with hopes of a vaccine or treatment, against concerns that relations with China were set to become increasingly strained.

The net effect was risk-on for equities at least through Wednesday’s close, sending the S&P 500 to close above 3,000 for the first time since March 5 and the Dow to a close of more than 25,000 for the first time since March 10.

Some of the stocks that led the S&P 500’s more than 35% bounce from its March 23 lows, however, lagged in recent sessions. The tech-heavy Nasdaq underperformed against the other major equity indices on Wednesday, and the Communication Services and Information Technology sectors lagged in the S&P 500. That rotation from high-growth tech to value names came alongside states reopening their economies and helping catalyze an uptick in activity, bringing investors back into a broader basket of equities.

“I think we can say at least now looking backwards, April was the economic bottom,” David Nelson, chief strategist at Belpointe Asset Management, told Yahoo Finance’s On the Move Wednesday afternoon. “We were at a virtual standstill. Anything has to be better than where we were. And as you get economic activity, there’s this natural gravitation to what I would call deeper cyclical names, and that points you to industrials, financials and some of the others.”

Still, the depths of the downturn in April and early May as underscored in recent reports like the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book on Wednesday highlighted the ongoing process of getting activity back to pre-virus levels. And the coronavirus case count and death toll from the pandemic continued to climb, albeit at decelerating paces, with the U.S. Covid-19 death toll topping 100,000 on Wednesday.

“Economic activity declined in all Districts – falling sharply in most – reflecting disruptions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the Beige Book. “Consumer spending fell further as mandated closures of retail establishments remained largely in place during most of the survey period,” which ran through May 18.

Market participants on Thursday will receive the Department of Labor’s report on weekly jobless claims, which is expected to show another 2.1 million individuals filed for first-time unemployment benefits the week ended May 23. Investors will also see the second print on first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP), which is expected to remain unchanged at a 4.8% annualized, quarter-over-quarter decline.

6:05 p.m. ET Wednesday: Stock futures roughly flat after rally

Here were the main moves at the start of the overnight session for U.S. equity futures, as of 6:02 p.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,035.50, flat

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 25,548.00, up 14 points (+0.05%)

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 9,423.25, up 1.75 points (+0.02%)

NEW YORK, May 26, 2020– Photo taken on May 26, 2020 shows the entrance to the New York Stock Exchange in New York, the United States. The New York Stock Exchange NYSE partially reopened its iconic trading floor on Tuesday after a two-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Wang Ying/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Wang Ying via Getty Images)

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