Wednesday April 29


Stock futures jump after positive data on Gilead coronavirus treatment

U.S. stock index futures jumped Wednesday on the back of positive data from a potential coronavirus treatment from Gilead Sciences while investors digested a sharp drop in U.S. economic activity. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 337 points, or 1.4%. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures traded higher by 1.3% and 1.4%, respectively. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said a study of Gilead’s remdesivir drug met its primary endpoint, lifting expectations for a potential coronavirus treatment. Gilead shares were halted around 8:30 a.m. and will re-open at 9 a.m. Sentiment was also lifted as Alphabet shares gained 8.6% in the premarket after the tech giant reported a revenue growth decline that was less steep than forecast. The company’s YouTube ad revenues also beat expectations. Other mega-cap tech stocks such as Facebook climbed 4.2% before the bell. Amazon gained 0.6% while Apple climbed 1.7%. All eyes will be on the Fed’s monetary policy decision at 2 p.m. ET Wednesday. Investors will look to the central bank’s statement and chairman Jerome Powell’s virtual press conference for clues about how long interest rates will stay near zero as the economy seeks to emerge from coronavirus crisis. “It doesn’t look like the Fed will raise interest rates beyond 0% until well-past the pandemic, which we think might be around 2023,” said Jim Caron, head of global macro strategies at Morgan Stanley Investment Management. “The market is pricing a recovery that starts in Q3, but there’s wide variability, and we need the Fed to give its input.” While no one is expecting any change to its benchmark interest rate, the Fed could potentially adjust the rate on bank reserves and announce asset purchases targeted toward driving down longer-term rates. Another big market catalyst will be a reading on U.S. gross domestic product at 8:30 a.m. ET. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones forecast the U.S. economy shrank by 3.5% in the first quarter as the pandemic disrupted economic activities. U.S. GDP grew by 2.1% in the fourth quarter. Stocks fell slightly on Tuesday as a slide in mega-cap tech shares put pressure on the broader market. The S&P 500 ended the day 0.5% lower, but the equity benchmark is still up more than 10% this month alone. President Donald Trump said in a press conference Tuesday the U.S. will “very soon” run five million coronavirus tests per day. The number of most tests the country has run was 314,182 on April 22, according to the Covid Tracking Project. The lack of testing remains an obstacle for many states anxious to reopen for business. Meanwhile, earnings season remains in focus with Boeing reporting its first-quarter results before the opening bell on Wednesday. Facebook, Tesla, and Microsoft are set to drop earnings after the bell. Stocks in Asia Pacific mostly edged higher on Wednesday as investors awaited the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision on interest rates. Mainland Chinese stocks were mixed on the day, with the Shanghai composite up 0.44% to about 2,822.44 while the Shenzhen composite dipped 0.105% to around 1,730.74. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index advanced 0.1%, as of its final hour of trading. South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.7% to close at 1,947.56. Markets in Japan were closed on Wednesday for a holiday. Oil prices jumped on Wednesday following a report that showed a smaller-than-expected build in U.S. inventories. West Texas Intermediate for June delivery surged 18.4%, or $2.27, to trade at $14.61 per barrel, while international benchmark Brent crude traded 8% higher at $22.09. Gold prices edged lower on Wednesday as optimism over economies easing coronavirus lockdowns lifted other assets and investors awaited the U.S. Federal Reserve’s monetary policy decision later in the day. Spot gold was down 0.2% to $1,703.42 per ounce. U.S. gold futures fell 0.2% to $1,718.80 per ounce.