US stock futures extend falls after weekly jobless claims, Philly Fed data; Fed comments weigh

US weekly initial jobless claims rose by 860,000 in the week ended September 12, more than the estimated 850,000, with continuing claims at 12.63 million

9.00am: Weak data cause more concern

US stock index futures extended their earlier falls, pointing to sharp opening losses Thursday on Wall Street after some weak economic data added to uncertainty about the Fed’s new policy stance.

US weekly initial jobless claims rose by 860,000 in the week ended September 12, more than the estimated 850,000, with continuing claims at 12.63 million.

Separately, the Philadelphia Fed manufacturing index, fell to 15 in September from 17.2 in prior month, suggesting a slowing pace of the recovery from the cor0navirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the area.

And another economic report showed US home builders started construction on homes at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.42 million in August, representing a 5% decrease from the previous month but a 3% uptick from a year ago.

The disappointing data came a day US central bank chairman Jerome Powell unsettled the market by emphasizing the challenges that the US economy faces as it attempts to emerge from recession brought on by the pandemic.

The Fed said it expected interest rates would stay near zero until at least 2023 but signaled that the road ahead for the economy could be a long one.

8.00am: Weak start predicted

US stock indices are all expected to retreat by around 1% on Thursday as investors await the latest weekly jobless claims which could add to concerns about an economic rebound a day after the Federal Reserve policy meeting proved disappointing.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished Wednesday in positive territory adding 36 points or 0.13% at 28,032. But the S&P 500 index dropped 0.46% closing at 3,385 and the Nasdaq Composite shed 1.25% to 11,050. There was volatility for America’s big-name tech stocks as Facebook found itself in the sights of an antitrust investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.

The Labor Department’s weekly report, due at 8.30am ET on Thursday, is expected to show about 850,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the week ended September 12, a touch lower than 884,000 in the previous week, but still suggesting the labor market’s recovery from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is stalling.

In a news conference on Wednesday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell also indicated a long road to “maximum employment” and said the central bank was limited in its capacity to address some of the gaps around wage growth and workforce participation.

Market analyst Chris Beauchamp at IG said: “A lingering sense of disappointment hangs over global markets in the wake of the Fed meeting last night. Investors had evidently hoped for something much more concrete than the relatively vague policy outlook provided by Powell and co, with equities struggling in early trading and the dollar finding some support.

“From the accompanying press conference, it is clear that the Fed finds itself in a similar situation to the ECB; content to err on the side of caution for now with regard to doing any more, but painfully aware that fiscal stimulus needs to pick up the slack even as the chances of that stimulus seem to be receding.”

He added: “With an election looming neither party in Congress wishes to give their opponents anything that could be transmuted into electoral advantage, and so the deadlock goes on. Improved GDP forecasts could help firm up the dollar, but will have equity traders worrying that a faster-than-expected rebound will prompt the Fed to ease off stimulus more rapidly than expected.”

Five things to watch on Thursday:

  • China’s ByteDance faces an uphill struggle to convince the White House to allow it to keep majority ownership of its popular short video app TikTok in the United States, according to former national security officials and regulatory lawyers, according to Reuters
  • Uber Technologies is planning to sell part of its $6.3 billion stake in Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing to raise cash, Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the matter
  • MetLife will buy vision-care benefits company Versant Health for $1.68 billion from an investor group led by Centerbridge Partners and FFL Partners, to strengthen its vision insurance business
  • US banks, including , and Citigroup all fell in thin premarket trading on the Fed disappointment
  • German biotech firm BioNTech rose after it said it is buying a production site from Swiss drugs giant Novartis to boost output of its potential coronavirus vaccine by several million doses

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