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Stock futures pointed to a lower open on Wall Street on Thursday, with traders unsettled by an unanticipated rise in unemployment, threatening a 2-day rally that wiped out losses sustained during the worst trading day of 2021.
Sentiment took a hit after 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.
On Wednesday, stocks completed a 2-day hot streak, in an attempt to calibrate a resurgence of COVID-19 cases against a red-hot economic expansion that continues to gain momentum. In the process, strong earnings have helped the market heal from Monday’s pandemic-inspired meltdown, with investors looking at the fundamentals rather than surging coronavirus numbers.
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. The sell-off that began the week was the year’s worst trading day, and spooked traders that had become “spoiled” by a seemingly endless series of win streaks.
“The truth is investors have been very spoiled by the recent stock market performance,” LPL Financial chief market strategist Ryan Detrick wrote on Wednesday.
“Incredibly, we haven’t seen as much as a 5% pullback since October. Although we firmly think this bull market is alive and well, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking trees grow forever. Risk is no doubt increasing as we head into the troublesome August and September months,” he added.
Netflix, however, bucked the market’s trend. It beat analysts’ expectations for new subscribers in Q2, but fell short of the target for estimates for Q3. On Wednesday, the stock saw its worst day in three months, tumbling by more than 3% as markets registered their disapproval over its mixed results.
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