Stock futures turn positive after much better-than-expected U.S. unemployment data

Stock futures turned positive after much better-than-expected U.S. unemployment data was released. New filings for U.S. unemployment benefits last week totaled 1.186 million, the lowest level since the prolonged COVID-19 shutdowns began. Wall Street had been expecting more than 1.4 million.

Jeff Cox for CNBC:

Stock futures turn positive after much better-than-expected U.S. unemployment dataThe level for the week ended Aug. 1 represented a drop of 249,000 from the previous period.

Amid worries that the employment picture was faltering after two record-breaking months of job creation, the claims number indicates some momentum. Continuing claims, or those who have collected benefits for two straight weeks, dropped by 844,000 to 16.1 million.

Markets reacted positively to the news, with Dow futures shaving almost all of their earlier losses as stocks looked to open about flat.

The last time the weekly claims number was this low was March 14, just as the coronavirus hit pandemic status and the U.S. economy came to a standstill in an effort to halt the spread. The totals since then have easily eclipsed anything seen before in records going back to 1967.

The four-week moving average, which smooths volatility in the numbers, fell by 413,250 to 16.6 million. But the damage to the labor remains deep and this was the 20th consecutive week that claims have run above 1 million.

MacDailyNews Take: Correction to Cox’s erroneous assertion that “the U.S. economy came to a standstill in an effort to halt the spread.” The effort wasn’t/isn’t so much to “halt” the spread, but to slow it so that medical facilities would/will not be swamped, i.e. “flatten the curve.”

See also: COVID-19: Some have confused ‘flattening the curve’ with ‘eliminating the virus’.

Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, [said], “Slowing it down matters because it prevents the health service becoming overburdened. We have a limited number of beds; we have a limited number of ventilators; we have a limited number of all the things that are part of supportive care that the most severely affected people will require.”

In a country whose government is unlikely, or unable, to impose draconian limits on freedom of movement as China did, such voluntary measures may be the best countermeasure. The reason isn’t that it will stop the virus; it’s likely the same number of people will ultimately still get sick. But it could mean the difference between a manageable surge of patients and one that overwhelms scarce resources, resulting in unnecessary deaths. — The Washington Post, March 10, 2020

At the beginning of an outbreak, many cases that are very severe can overwhelm the health care system. The health care system depletes its resources and deaths increase. If we plot those cases on a graph, we see a large spike. However, if we can instead spread that same number of cases over a longer period of time, the health care system has time to replenish its resources to continue to respond.Cherise Rohr-Allegrini, infectious disease epidemiologist, March 14, 2020

Apple’s share price is up slightly in pre-market trading, +$0.65 (+0.15%), to $440.90.

13 Comments

  1. These prolonged, illogical COVID-19 shutdowns are the greatest folly of modern times and history will eventually record them as such.

    https://swprs.org/studies-on-covid-19-lethality/

  2. Exactly right, MacDailyNews, as usual.

    Lockdowns do not prevent infection in the future. They just don’t. It comes back, many times it comes back. The purpose of a lockdown is to buy time to build capacity, especially with respect to hospitals, learn more about the disease and develop effective treatments as we did in the United States.U.S. President Donald Trump, August 3, 2020

    Social distancing can’t decrease the number of infections. Nothing short of developing an effective vaccine can. Social distancing, at best, slows down the rate at which the COVID-19 virus spreads without decreasing the number of people who will ultimately get sick.

    For the virus to go away, enough of us have to become immune to deprive it of a sufficient number of carriers to reach the rest. Until that threshold for herd immunity is reached, the COVID-19 virus isn’t going away.

    And neither lockdowns nor any other measures designed to slow down the rate at which it spreads do anything to lower its threshold for herd immunity.

    In far too many cases, those pushing for lockdowns encouraged the false belief that we were going to lower the number of people ultimately contracting COVID-19 by failing to explicitly acknowledge that the point was, instead, only to get, as Dr. Lisa Maragakis, Senior Director of Infection Prevention at Johns Hopkins Medical School says, “the same large number of patients arriving at the hospital at a slower rate.”

    1. Arriving at the hospital at a slower rate so the system won’t be overwhelmed and more patients will survive. That was carefully explained by public health officials all the way back in March. Flattening the curve always meant lowering its height by extending its duration. If people chose to believe that “it is going to just go away,” it wasn’t public health experts who were saying that. It was the guy who was still saying that yesterday morning.

      Herd immunity for this virus is a mythical beast. Even in the areas that have been the hardest hit, the percentage of the general population who have antibodies is barely a third or a quarter of the percentage required to seriously protect those who have not been infected. By the time that many people have been infected, the first patients may have lost their immunity to the mutated strains of the virus, like happens with influenza.

      The notion that Sweden was safe while wide open is another myth. They actually practiced social distancing much more rigorously in practice than Americans have and they still had a substantially higher number of deaths in proportion to population than any of the neighboring nations.

      The facts aren’t hard to discover if you can get past the people promoting the same sort of “science” as the tobacco industry used to minimize the dangers of smoking. That killed many thousands, and so have the coronavirus minimizers.

        1. The good news, GeoB, is that if you and your friends listen to the President and ignore medical advice about social distancing, masks, handwashing, disinfection, testing, and quarantines you will never have to worry about Joe Biden because you will be dead before next January 20.

  3. The lockdown has definitely slowed down the spread of the disease. If the transmission is reduced so that the transmission rate (R number) is less than 1, then the spread of the disease can be significantly mitigated. This is a particularly nasty virus since symptoms take 10 days or so to show up so people who are infected can pass on the virus without knowing it.
    The lockdown in March / April worked well in places where it was properly implemented. The mistake was opening up too soon and not implementing social distancing and masks.
    If the lockdown is not maintained until the virus has died out, there will be the surges that we have seen.
    Yes a vaccine will be great but that probably won’t be widely available until next year. 4-6 months time. In that time more people will die unless we really get serious about stopping the spread of the disease.

    The “R number” is the average number of people an infected person will pass the disease on to.
    If R is below one, then the number of people contracting the disease will fall; if it is above one, the number will grow.

  4. As I type on my new iMac in sorrow at not having waited to buy the newly released but more powerful iMac,…there must be a word for the process of when the stock market irrationally goes up when the fundamental numbers are still low but are higher than analysts and investors pessimistically told each-other. The word would convey a complex/comprehensive idea; It has to include such concepts as misplaced exuberance, passion, self-centeredness, manipulation, shenanigan, profiteering, fantasy, lower-wage-job-creation, immorality, laziness, and dog-eat-dog to reflect how Wall St. works.
    Which is why I love the ancient Greek word, hubris. It conveys a lot of things: excessive confidence, pride, or arrogance leading a person to believe that he or she may do no wrong leading to eventual tragedy which the person did not intend. In US executive policy for just two examples, it led inborn murderer Hillary under Obama to tragically invade Libya to create chaos in N. Africa and to incompetent Bush II under Cheney to kill Iraq’s Hussein which created the modern day ISIS.
    I would call them jackasses but it’s not specific enough to how they operate the stock market world-wide.

    1. Trumpet has worked that way all of his life, Herman I won’t wear a mask Cain is just notch.

      Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Cisco, Facebook, Microsoft, Kirks soap, Clorox, and other companies like them and the upper 5% are going to win as always.

      Americans and Brits in the mid-east has been bad since 1953 nothing new…..

    2. Sorry for your somewhat “ill-timed” purchase. Those suck…but it’s still a good machine.

      I think the purchase may have encouraged your dour post. Bottom line, you’re talking about a Bubble and the human’s propensity to get on that rising bubble for all the excitement it seems to hold.

      Papa Warren B doesn’t get to far-flung (Iraq and Lybia) but he does say, “be fearful when others are greedy,” which ties into your “irrationality…fundamental” section. Hubris can show itself strongly during these times. I admit…I’m feeling a bit of it.

  5. This C19 “sky is falling” media and Democrat scare is at epic levels and what you don’t hear is 70-80% survive, deaths have been trending downward and over 70% are people over 60 with medical conditions. Puhleeze, enough already!…

  6. What we have not heard from the Democrat Dominated media since Feb.-March is the highly touted initial projected studies predicted 2.5 million dead in the USA from C19.

    Now at 160,000, well that scare tactic now non-existent. So only to the flavor of the month dual fear mongering of schools and sports reopening.

    Gee, what will the October surprise overblown media fear mongering be right before the election? No rallies and no debates the president excels at?

    Count on it…

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