By Lorcan Roche Kelly
Weekly jobless claims numbers due 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time are expected to show another record high with the median expectation from economists surveyed by Bloomberg for 3.7 million new claims. Last week’s total of 3.28 million was four times the previous high in data going back to 1967. Rocketing job losses are a global phenomenon, with data from Spain, the United Kingdom, and Canada all pointing to a huge increase. The situation is likely to continue to worsen as employers seek more payroll cuts. Boeing Co. is expected to announce voluntary buyout offers to its 161,000 workers today.
China has rejected a U.S. intelligence claim that the country concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak there. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that China had been open and transparent in its actions, accusing U.S. officials of wanting to “shift the blame.” In the U.S., the toll from the virus seems set to worsen with reports yesterday showing the Federal Emergency Management Agency has requested 100,000 body bags for civilian use. Globally, the number of cases is set to pass 1 million with over 47,000 deaths attributed to the outbreak.
Crude surged more than 12% on reports that China is set to take advantage of low prices and start buying for its strategic reserve. The news, though welcome for oil producing nations, comes with a sting in the tail as the cost of shipping the commodity around the globe has sky-rocketed recently. It now costs $10 a barrel to move crude from the U.S. to China. President Donald Trump met with executives from the country’s oil industry yesterday as he steps up efforts to intervene in the rout which threatens to wipe out tens of thousands of jobs in the shale industry.
After a month of breakneck moves, global equity markets are having a relatively subdued session. Overnight, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index slipped 0.3% while Japan’s Topix index closed 1.6% lower. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was 0.1% higher at 5:50 a.m. with oil and gas stocks jumping on the crude rebound. S&P 500 futures pointed to a solid gain at the open ahead of claims data, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 0.597% and gold was flat.
As well as the jobs data, the U.S. trade balance for February is published at 8:30 a.m. Factory while durable goods orders numbers for that month are released at 10:00 a.m. In earnings today, investors will keep a close eye on Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.’s report as the pharmacy retailer may have some insights into consumer behavior amid the outbreak. The Federal Reserve, which yesterday said it would allow banks take on more leverage to help absorb a severe lack of liquidity for Treasuries, will run its usual two overnight $500 billion repo operations.