U.S. stock futures struggled for direction Friday, after benchmark indexes closed at record highs on Thursday, with investors focused on talks in Washington over another round of economic relief.
What are major benchmarks doing?
- Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average YM00 were up 8 points at 30,210.
- S&P 500 futures ES00, +0.12% rose 4.70 points, or 0.1%, to 3,717.50.
- Nasdaq-100 futures NQ00, +0.06% were up 7.50 points, or 0.1%, at 12,758.50.
Whatâ€™s driving the market?
Republican and Democratic lawmakers continued to negotiate toward a $900 billion package of economic relief that would send checks to households, extend unemployment benefits and provide aid to small businesses. At the same time, a midnight Friday deadline to complete a bill funding government operations loomed, leaving the possibility of a government shutdown in the midst of a worsening pandemic.
Still, the path of least resistance for equities may remain to the upside on continued expectations that a worsening economic backdrop, as illustrated by a Thursday rise in first-time jobless claims data, will push Congress to complete a deal, analysts said.
â€œLawmakers from both major U.S. political parties said that failing to agree on a COVID-relief package is not an option, while Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that talks could spill into the weekend,â€ said Charalambos Pissouros, senior market analyst at JFD Group, in a note. â€œIn our view, this suggests that a bill is more likely than not to pass before the end of the year.Â â€œ
Meanwhile, a second COVID-19 vaccine is expected to soon be rolled out. An independent advisory committee on Thursday voted 20-0-1 that the benefits of Moderna Inc.â€™s MRNA, +5.09% COVID-19 vaccine candidate outweigh the risks, a recommendation that sets the stage for a likely Food and Drug Administration authorization. Moderna shares were down 1.7% in premarket trade.
There were 238,189 new COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S. on Thursday, down slightly from 245,033 on Wednesday, according to data provided by the New York Times. Deaths fell from Wednesdayâ€™s record of 3,611 to at least 3, 293 on Thursday, remaining above the 3,000 level for a third straight day.
The U.S. economic calendar is light to end the last full trading week of 2020, with third-quarter data on the current account deficit due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern and a reading on leading economic indicators from the Conference Board for November due at 10 a.m.
Which companies are in focus?
- Microsoft Corp. MSFT, +0.06% confirmed that it was breached as part of the massive hack that used a backdoor in SolarWinds software, as part of what the tech giantâ€™s president called â€œeffectively an attack on the United States.â€ Microsoft shares were down 0.4% in premarket trade.
- Shares of FedEx Corp. FDX, +1.19% fell more than 3% in premarket trade, despite the package-delivery giant late Thursday reporting quarterly sales that topped $20 billion for the first time and earnings that more than doubled.
- Shares of Dow Inc. DOW jumped 3% in premarket trade, to lead gainers in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, after J.P. Morgan turned bullish on the materials science company, as business conditions in the middle of December look â€œmuch betterâ€ than they did two weeks ago.
- Shares of Steelcase Inc. SCS, -3.66% were down 8.8% in premaket action after the office-furniture maker said profit and sales fell in the third quarter as it deals with a shift in demand for office products during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Darden Restaurants Inc. DRI, +1.83% shares fell after the restaurant chain reported a better-than-expected profit, but said sales at its Olive Garden restaurants fell more than forecast.