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Stock futures drop on sharp rise in virus cases, elevated jobless claims

(Reuters) – U.S. stock futures slipped further on Thursday following Wall Street’s worst day in two weeks, as investors were unnerved by an alarming rise in new coronavirus cases and an elevated weekly jobless claims number.

Data showed about 1.48 million Americans signed up for unemployment benefits in the last week. The figure came in only slightly below the 1.5 million in the prior week as weak demand forced U.S. employers to lay off workers even as businesses reopened.

Walt Disney Co slipped 2.6% in premarket trading after it delayed the reopening of theme parks due to the health crisis. A report also said the company was considering postponing the July 24 release of “Mulan”.

“Markets have been pricing in perfection over almost three months that reopening (businesses) will begin to kickstart the economy off the lows,” said Michael Hans, chief investment officer at Clarfeld Citizens Private Wealth in Greater New York City Area.

But the course of the pandemic remains uncertain “and until we have a little bit more clarity, it’s only natural that markets take a breather here,” Hans added.

The resurgence in virus cases across the United States has revived fears of another lockdown to contain the pandemic and threatened to halt a Wall Street rally that was powered by a raft of global stimulus since late March.

After coming within 5% of its record high in early June, the benchmark S&P 500 has lost nearly 6% in the past two weeks and analysts cautioned further declines amid worsening economic forecasts.

The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday warned of a nearly 5% plunge in the global economic output in 2020.

At 8:39 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 218 points, or 0.86%, S&P 500 e-minis were down 21 points, or 0.69% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 18 points, or 0.18%.

Boeing Co tumbled 4% as rival Airbus reached a crucial jetliner production target and smoothed recent industrial problems.

Berenberg also reduced its rating on the U.S. planemaker’s shares to “sell”, noting elevated near-term risks linked to the pandemic, the pace of recovery in air travel and uncertainty related to production rates.

Moderna Inc rose 4% after it signed a partnership with contract drugmaker Catalent Inc to support production of 100 million doses of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

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