Futures dip ahead of weekly jobless claims, OPEC+ meeting

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures edged lower on Thursday as investors braced for another staggering weekly jobless claims number, while oil prices rose on hopes of sweeping production cuts.

Weekly initial jobless claims, the most timely data on economic health, are expected to have surged to 15 million in the past three weeks, even with figures for the week ended April 4 likely to slip to a seasonally adjusted 5.25 million, according to a Reuters poll of economists.

Estimates in the survey were as high as 9.295 million, and the final report from the Labor Department is expected at 8:30 a.m. ET.

“The virus situation in the U.S. had been worsening day by day last week and we wouldn’t be surprised if we get a new record (in jobless claims),” said Charalambos Pissouros, senior market analyst at JFD Group.

“This would confirm that the damages in the U.S. job market are worse than previously anticipated and may trigger another round of risk aversion.”

In another sharp swing, which is no longer unusual on Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 jumped 3.4% on Wednesday on early signals that social distancing measures were leading to a slowdown in the coronavirus outbreak in U.S. hot spots.

While public health experts said the steps were vital to controlling the contagion, the restrictions have strangled the U.S. economy and sparked widespread production cuts, layoffs and projections of a severe recession.

Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O) fell more than 2% in premarket trading as the coffee chain forecast a 47% drop in second-quarter earnings due to a loss in sales.

Exxon Mobil (XOM.N), Chevron (CVX.N), Marathon Oil (MRO.N) and Apache Corp (APA.N) rose between 2.5% and 12.3% ahead of a meeting of the world’s biggest oil producers to discuss production cuts. [O/R]

However, the negotiations are complicated by internal disagreements and the reluctance of the United States, the world’s biggest shale producer, to make cuts of its own.

Despite a 10.5% surge so far in the holiday-shortened week, the S&P 500 is still down about 19% from its mid-February record high and volatility is expected to remain high heading into the first-quarter earnings season.

Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) jumped 6.7%, leading gains among Dow .DJI components, as the company said its Disney+ streaming service had attracted more than 50 million paid users globally.

At 7:32 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis 1YMcv1 were down 122 points, or 0.52%. S&P 500 e-minis EScv1 were down 19.75 points, or 0.72% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQcv1 were down 52 points, or 0.63%.

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