Futures turn around, pointing to Friday opening gains for Wall Street

Traders work during the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 16, 2020 at Wall Street in New York City.

Johannes Eisele | AFP | Getty Images

U.S. stock futures turned around early Friday morning, pointing to modest gains after stocks managed to notch a positive Thursday session.

As of 2:16 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were up 148 points, implying a gain of about 86 points at the open on Friday. S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq 100 futures also pointed to opening gains for the indexes.

Stocks rose on Thursday, with the Dow rising 188.27 points, or nearly 1%, to 20,087.19. The S&P 500 was up 0.5% at 2,409.39 while the Nasdaq Composite outperformed with a 2.3% surge to 7,150.58. The energy sector led stocks higher, gaining 6.75%, as oil posted its largest one-day percent gain in history.

Thursday’s relatively muted move was a break from the extreme volatility of late in the market, as investors try to make sense of the ongoing coronavirus-induced business slowdown.

On Wednesday, the Dow dropped 1,338.46 points, or 6.3%, to close below 20,000 for the first time since February 2017.

Still, Thursday’s gains have barely put a dent in what’s been a week of steep losses. The Dow is down 13.36% on the week, putting it on track for its largest weekly percentage loss since the financial crisis. The 30-stock index remains 32% below its all-time high level from February, while the S&P 500 is 29% below its high.

The Fed has announced a number of stimulus measures, but it hasn’t assuaged investors’ fears.

“Market volatility will persist until the government – fiscal or monetary – provides a backstop to stressed corporates and small & medium businesses,” New York Life Investments’ Lauren Goodwin said Thursday. “Support of those functions is vital to ensuring the economic disruption of covid-19, though severe, is temporary,” she added.

Investors have also been looking for signs that authorities are taking steps to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. Earlier, Dow futures had pointed to losses of more than 400 points at Friday’s open. The futures contracts have since come back from those lows in choppy trade.

Late Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newson announced a statewide order for all residents to “stay at home.”

“Home isolation is not my preferred choice … but it is a necessary one …This is not a permanent state, this is a moment in time,” Newsom said.

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise, Bridgewater’s Ray Dalio was the latest investor to weigh in on the long-term impacts of the virus.

“What’s happening has not happened in our lifetime before … What we have is a crisis,” the Bridgewater founder said Thursday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “There will also be individuals who have very big losses. … There’s a need for the government to spend more money, a lot more money.”

He said the outbreak will cost U.S. corporations up to $4 trillion, and “a lot of people are going to be broke.”

— CNBC’s Yun Li and Eustance Huang contributed reporting.

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