Here are the most important news, trends and analysis that investors need to start their trading day:
1. Stocks relatively flat after another S&P 500 record high
U.S. stock futures were mixed Friday, a day after modest gains pushed the S&P 500 to another closing record and the Dow Jones Industrial Average to less than 24 points away from Monday’s record close. The Nasdaq was the real winner Thursday, logging a 1% gain on strength in tech names. The Nasdaq was less than 2% away from its February record close. Lending support to stocks, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Thursday called the U.S. economic recovery from the Covid pandemic “uneven” and said temporarily higher prices won’t lead to worrisome inflation. Those comments lent support to Fed reassurances that ultra-accommodative Covid-era monetary policies won’t change any time soon.
2. Treasury yields climb ahead of producer prices data
The 10-year Treasury yield ticked higher Friday, but remained below 1.7% and last month’s run of 14-month highs. The bond market has been at odds with the Fed this year, as traders push yields up on the belief that stronger economic growth and inflation will force central bankers to hike near-zero short-term interest rates and taper massive asset purchases sooner than forecast. The Labor Department is set to release its latest monthly look at inflation in producer prices. Economists expect the March producer price index to show an increase of 0.4%, with an ex-food and energy core rate gain of 0.2%.
3. Covid cases in U.S. creep higher even as vaccinations ramp up
U.S. coronavirus cases are creeping higher as infections in many parts of the world are skyrocketing. Even with the U.S. vaccinating about 3 million people per day and nearly 20% of the American population fully vaccinated, new daily Covid cases and deaths were still, respectively, averaging over 66,000 and nearly 1,000. In a fast-deteriorating situation in Brazil, that country this week became just the third, after the U.S. and Peru, to report a 24-hour tally of Covid deaths that exceeded 4,000. In the state of Rio de Janeiro, emergency services are under their biggest strain since the pandemic began.
4. Florida sues CDC to allow cruises to resume U.S. sailings
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday the state will file a lawsuit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, demanding cruise ships be allowed to resume U.S. sailings immediately. Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain said he would like the cruise industry to be “treated in a very similar way to the airlines,” which have been allowed to fly. However, Fain said he’s optimistic about the possible resumption of U.S. sailings in the second half of this year, citing President Joe Biden‘s goal for society to return to a semblance of normal by July 4.
5. Amazon lead widens in union vote at Alabama warehouse
With about half the ballots counted, Amazon held a commanding lead in the historic U.S. worker vote on whether to unionize at one of the e-commerce giant’s Alabama warehouses. Counting will resume Friday. There have been hundreds of contested ballots, most of which were challenged by Amazon. Roughly 55% of the eligible workers at Amazon’s Bessemer warehouse voted. For many years, major unions have quietly been talking to Amazon workers about organizing. They’ve long faced steep challenges in the U.S., where none of the company’s warehouses are organized. Unions are common among Amazon’s workforce in Europe.