Stock futures rise slightly as Wall Street tries to end the week on a high note

People walk by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on May 18, 2020 in New York City.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

U.S. stock futures opened slightly higher on Thursday night following a muted session in which traders grappled with disappointing unemployment data and rising coronavirus cases.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures gained 30 points, or 0.1%. S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 futures were also just above the flatline. 

The Dow closed just below the flatline during the cash session, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq eked out small gains. The major averages gyrated between gains and losses for most of the day. At one point, the Dow had fallen more than 270 points.

Initial U.S. jobless claims totaled 1.5 million for last week, topping a Dow Jones estimate of 1.3 million.

“The number of new jobless claims fell for the eleventh week in a row but this week, the improvement was much smaller even compared to last week’s upwardly revised figure,” said Ken Berman of Gorilla Trades. “While the May jobs report was much better than expected, this month’s job-related indicators were far from stellar, and that could mean that the pace of the recovery is slowing.”

Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise in certain parts of the U.S. Texas, California, Arizona and Florida all reported its biggest-ever one-day increase. 

Some investors fear that a resurgence in coronavirus cases could lead to states retaking stricter quarantine measures to curb the spread, thus thwarting expectations of a smooth economic recovery. To be sure, those increases come as states ramp up testing.

“The rally of the past few months may have led to stocks reaching within striking distance of record highs, but investors are struggling to reconcile upward momentum and less optimistic messages about the months ahead,” said Lindsey Bell, chief investment strategist at Ally Invest. “That, along with concerns about a second wave of coronavirus and geopolitical tensions, has led to some serious indecisiveness.”

The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite headed into Friday’s session on pace for their fourth weekly gain in five weeks. The Dow is up 1.9% week to date through Thursday’s close while the S&P 500 has gained 2.4% in that time. The Nasdaq has climbed more than 3% over that time period.

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