Here are the most important news, trends and analysis that investors need to start their trading day:
- Dow set for higher open after another major comeback
- Initial jobless claims see big drop last week in possible weather-skewed data
- GameStop shares surge again as Reddit favorites rally again
- Pfizer, Moderna work on shots against strain first discovered in South Africa
- GOP rallies against Democrats’ Covid relief package
1. Dow set for higher open after another major comeback
Dow futures rose Thursday, one day after the 30-stock average wiped out a 110-point loss and climbed 424 points, or 1.4%, to a record closing high. S&P and Nasdaq futures dropped in Thursday's premarket. The tech-heavy Nasdaq on Wednesday erased a 1.3% drop and closed 1% higher. The S&P 500 finished 1.1% higher after recovering from a 0.6% decline.
Two days of reassuring words on interest rates and inflation from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell helped push stocks higher and tempered bond yield gains Wednesday. But on Thursday, the 10-year Treasury yield rose to 1.45%, around the highest levels in a year. Bitcoin rose 5% early Thursday, back above $50,000.
2. Initial jobless claims see big drop last week in possible weather-skewed data
The government Thursday morning reported 730,000 new filings for unemployment benefits last week, way below estimates, though the numbers may be skewed due to rough winter weather in parts of the country. Nevertheless, that's a huge initial jobless claims drop of 111,000 from the downwardly revised prior week. Despite the decline, the total still was well above anything the U.S. labor market had ever seen prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
January durable goods orders rose 3.4%, more than three times higher than expectations. The second estimate for economic growth for the fourth quarter was slightly below estimates at a 4.1% annual rate but slightly higher than the previous reading of 4%. Taken together, jobless claims, durable goods and GDP added evidence of a recovering economy.
3. GameStop shares surge again as Reddit favorites rally again
GameStop climbed more than 70% in Thursday's premarket trading as heavily shorted stocks favored by Reddit traders surged again. Shares of the video game retailer doubled Wednesday to nearly $92 each after Chief Financial Officer Jim Bell resigned. The GameStop frenzy last month sent shares skyrocketing, causing a short squeeze on a number of Wall Street hedge funds. GameStop traded below $20 per share in early January, before soaring to an intraday high of $483 on Jan. 28, a surge of more than 2,300%. The stock crashed below $50 by mid-February before Wednesday's spike.
4. Pfizer, Moderna work on shots against strain discovered in South Africa
Pfizer and BioNTech said Thursday they are testing a third dose of their Covid-19 vaccine to better understand the immune response against new variants of the coronavirus. They are also in talks with regulatory authorities about testing a vaccine modified to protect specifically against the new variant found in South Africa.
Moderna has shipped to the National Institutes of Health doses of a new Covid vaccine designed to provide better protection against the variant spreading in South Africa. The new vaccine is ready to be tested in an early-stage clinical trial to determine if it can be used as a booster shot against the highly transmissible strain. Moderna expects $18.4 billion in 2021 sales from Covid vaccine.
5. GOP rallies against Democrats’ Covid relief package
Republicans rallied against Democrats' proposed $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill as lawmakers awaited a decision by the Senate's parliamentarian that could bolster or kill a pivotal provision hiking the federal minimum wage. Despite narrow majorities on Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders were poised to push the sweeping package through the House on Friday. They were hoping the Senate would follow quickly enough to have legislation on President Joe Biden's desk by mid-March.
— Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow all the developments on Wall Street in real time with CNBC Pro's live markets blog. Get the latest on the pandemic with our coronavirus blog.