Stock futures jump amid COVID-19 treatment optimism, economic reopening discussions

Stock futures kicked off the overnight session higher Thursday evening after policymakers ramped up talk of reopening businesses, and a major drugmaker’s treatment reportedly showed promise in treating patients diagnosed with COVID-19.

The latest, more upbeat developments helped counterbalance a slew of dire economic data released earlier Thursday, including one showing another more than five million surge in new weekly jobless claims.

After market close Thursday, STAT reported that a Gilead (GILD) antiviral treatment was driving “rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms” for individuals with COVID-19. Gilead’s stock jumped more than 14% in late trading.

Improving prospects for a vaccine – which other health-care giants including Johnson & Johnson have also been racing to develop – sparked a surge in optimism among equity trader. The SPY exchange-traded fund (SPY) tracking the S&P 500 jumped more than 2% in late trading following the report.

In the U.S., the coronavirus has so far sickened more than 654,000 individuals, and killed more than 30,000, according to Johns Hopkins data Thursday evening.

But weeks’ worth of strict social distancing measures across the country, and especially in some of the nation’s largest cities, has helped “flatten the curve” for new hospitalizations and cases, emboldening talk of restarting business activities that have been halted during the pandemic.

The Trump administration briefed governors on Thursday about a three-phase blueprint for economic reopening, leaving it to the states to move through each phase at their own paces and ensure testing, surveillance and contingency plans remain in place in case another wave of infections arises.

But with case counts still elevated in absolute terms, some of the states hardest hit by the coronavirus virus doubled down on their current social distancing standards, at least for the near-term. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday extended the shutdown in the state, the hardest hit by the coronavirus, to May 15, in coordination with other Northeast states.

Some individual companies have also set plans to restart operations crimped by the coronavirus outbreak. Boeing said Thursday it will begin ramping its commercial aircraft production in the Seattle area starting next week, after temporarily shutting production late last month. Shares of Boeing, a Dow component, were up more than 7% in after-hours trading.

6:01 p.m. ET Thursday: Stock futures open sharply higher

Here were the main moves at the start of the overnight session for U.S. equity futures, as of 6:01 p.m. ET Thursday:

S&P 500 futures (ES=F): up 77.75 points, or +2.79% to 2,865.25

Dow futures (YM=F): up 681 points, or +2.91% to 24,088.00

Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): up 188 points, or +2.15% to 8,922.25

A view of a nearly deserted Broad street and the New York Stock Exchange building in the financial district of lower Manhattan during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., April 3, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

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