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* Initial unemployment rose to 6.65 mln last week
* Exxon, Chevron top gainers on Dow premarket
* All three main indexes fell over 4% on Wednesday
* Futures down: Dow 0.42%, S&P 0.25%, Nasdaq 0.33% (Adds details, comment; Updates prices)
April 2 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures fell on Thursday after U.S. jobless claims topped a whopping 6 million as more jurisdictions enforced stay-at-home measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits hit a record high for a second straight week and far exceeded the median estimate of 3.50 million in a Reuters survey of economists.
“This shows the magnitude and the seriousness of this problem,” said Richard Steinberg, chief market strategist at Colony Group, in Florida.
“We’re going to be digesting this for awhile and until the data becomes less worse, we’re going to have lumpiness in trading around these shock-and-awe numbers.”
Sentiment was earlier lifted by a recovery in oil prices as U.S. President Donald Trump said he expected Saudi Arabia and Russia to reach an agreement to cut output to cope with plunging demand.
Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp jumped more than 6% in premarket trading, while Occidental Petroleum , ConocoPhillips and Apache jumped more than 9%, leading gains among S&P 500 components.
The Dow and S&P 500 are still fresh from their worst opening quarters in history, as U.S. companies cut production and withdraw financial forecasts to the coronavirus outbreak, raising the risk of corporate defaults.
Boeing Co said on Thursday it would offer buyout and early retirement packages to employees in the face of a near collapse in global travel demand. Its shares rose 3% before the bell.
“Until investors are able to put a price on the final cost of the economic impact from the virus pandemic, any predictions of where the bottom is for stocks will be deemed premature,” said Raffi Boyadjian, senior investment analyst at XM in Cyprus.
At 9:09 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 87 points, or 0.42%. S&P 500 e-minis were down 6 points, or 0.25% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 24.25 points, or 0.33%.
The S&P 500 has lost about $8 trillion in market value since a mid-February record high as the outbreak spread deeper in the United States and Trump warned of more economic pain in the next two weeks as efforts to contain the virus crush business activity.
Across the Atlantic, British Airways jumped 3% after reports it was in talks with its union about a plan to suspend around 32,000 staff, marking one of the industry’s most dramatic moves yet to survive the coronavirus impact.
Delta Airlines, United Airlines Holding and American Airlines, among the most battered U.S. stocks this year, rose about 5%.
Southwest Airlines Co jumped 3% as it said it intended to file an application with the U.S. Treasury department for aid related to the disruption caused by the health crisis. (Reporting by Medha Singh and Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Sagarika Jaisinghani and Arun Koyyur)
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