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Wall Street opens higher amid fall in jobless claims

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The main indices of Wall Street started on the front foot on Thursday morning as jobless claims in the US continued to decline, although less than predicted.

Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.19% at 31,498 while the S&P 500 climbed 0.3% to 3,921 and the Nasdaq rose 0.42% to 14,031.

The positive start followed US data for the week to February 5 which showed 793,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits, down from an upwardly revised figure of 812,000 the week before but above the 760,000 analysts had expected.

Meanwhile, one of the early winners in New York was payments firm Mastercard Inc (NYSE:MA), which was up 3.2% at US$344.82 after the company said it allow people to send and receive payments in cryptocurrency later this year.

7:55am: Wall Street expected to start on a positive note

After a mixed performance on Wednesday, Wall Street is expected to open in positive territory. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is forecast to rise around 52 points while the S&P 500 is expected to add around 10 points and the Nasdaq is predicted to climb 57 points.

Before then, the weekly US jobless claims are due and could have an influence on the general direction of travel. The numbers have been showing signs of improvement from the January peaks of 926,000. They fell to 779,000 last week and are forecast to dip again to 760,000.

US markets could also take some comfort from Wednesday’s comments by Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell, who eased fears the central bank might be keen to tighten policy prematurely. Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG, said: “Powell was keen to stress that there was no rush to change policy, and that ‘substantial further progress’ would need to be made on the Fed’s dual mandate. At present, the employment element of that mandate is much more important, and with inflation still low the Fed has continued to signal that its foot remains firmly on the accelerator. Nonetheless, investors are still jittery, worrying that the recent highs for some indices will not hold, so we can expect more volatility around current levels even as the overall push higher continues.”

After the market closes come first quarter results from the Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) and analysts will be keen to see the impact of the pandemic on its business, as well as the updates on subscriber numbers for Disney+. The company is forecast to report a loss per share of between US$0.30 and US$0.40 with revenues expected to drop by around 24% after the forced closure of theme parks and resorts.

Michael Hewson at CMC Markets UK said: “Disney+ subscriptions are likely to be the main focus as it takes on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple TV+. Undercutting on price may seem like a no-brainer, and while we’ve seen a big uptake on the subscriptions front with over 86.8m in the first year when the company reported in December it still has some way to go to compete with Netflix in terms of content depth. The service is also operating at a loss, which means it’s had to bite the bullet and will be increasing prices, with a basic UK subscription rising to £7.99 a month in March…

“Disney also has the added drag in terms of losses at its film studios, theme parks and resorts, as a result of the pandemic.”

Four things to watch for on Thursday:

  • Large caps in the earnings diary that may draw interest aside from Disney and PepsiCo include electric power firm Duke Energy Corp (NYSE:DUK) and genetic analysis specialist Illumina Inc (NASDAQ:ILMN)
  • Food giant Kraft Heinz Co (NASDAQ:KHC) will also be in focus after it unveiled plans to sell its nuts business to Hormel Foods Corp (NYSE:HRL) for around US$3.4bn
  • Aside from the Bitcoin news earlier this week, Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) shares could be in focus again following news Elon Musk’s brother Kimbal Musk, a Tesla board member, sold just over US$25mln of shares in the electric car maker
  • Meanwhile, investors will also be eyeing the return to the market of Playboy Enterprises when trading opens this morning after nine years as a private company. The firm will be listed as PLBY Group and has been brought back to the market following an acquisition by special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Mountain Crest Acquisition Corp

Story by ProactiveInvestors


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