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Investors have seen a number of mixed corporate earnings outcomes and releases of economic data along with ongoing reopening processes by states.
The report on initial unemployment claims by the U.S. Labor Department – a weekly focal point providing more current data on the state of the virus-stricken economy – came in at a further 2,438 million for the week ended May 16. While that marked the seventh straight week of declines in the level of new claims, it was still the ninth week that the initial claims were in the multi-million, bringing the total to more than 38.6 million since the week ended March 20.
Tensions between the U.S. and China have escalated elsewhere, with the Senate passing a bill that could prevent certain Chinese firms from listed on U.S. stock exchanges.
During Wednesday’s regular session, stocks rose as investors considered more developments regarding reopenings of states and easing lockdown restrictions, which came alongside some more positive corporate earnings from retailers including Lowe’s (LOW). And while Target ‘s shares closed down on Wednesday, the big-box retailer reported quarterly results that surpassed consensus estimates, underlining the successes of some retailers in leveraging digital sales to mitigate disruptions because orders remained in place.
However, during the pandemic other companies reported stunning declines in business activity. Travel company Expedia (EXPE) swung to a quarterly loss and said in the second half of March it saw a decline in gross bookings of as much as 90 per cent, according to recent results. And while the Take-Two Interactive Software (TTWO) gaming company reported fiscal fourth-quarter results that outpaced expectations, its weaker than expected outlook for the full year suggested that the company did not expect its virus-related business boost to extend at the same rate through the second half of the year.
Every one of the 50 states has seen at least some form of easing stay-in – place orders as of this week. As of Wednesday, more than 1.5 million people in the U.S. were infected, and the death toll shrunk above 93,000.
Long-standing concerns have lingered around the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact. Minutes from the late-April meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee released Wednesday showed that a number of officials felt that the pandemic could have longer-lasting effects, with some judging “there was a substantial likelihood of additional waves of the outbreak in the near or medium term” potentially leading “to a prolonged period of severe economic activity reduction.”
Nevertheless, market participants have mostly bet that in case of further disruptions due to the pandemic, the Fed, or Congress, would come to rescue with additional stimulus.