Stock Index ETF Are Mixed As Investors Await Stimulus Package

Stocks are mixed to higher in trade on Thursday as investors digest jobless data and remain on alert for a another coronavirus relief package.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500, and Nasdaq Composite all traded modestly lower in the overnight futures session, and are struggling to remain positive as of noon EST Thursday.

Stock index ETFs are trading mixed along with their underlying benchmarks. The SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (DIA), SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY), are oscillating above and below breakeven, while the Invesco QQQ Trust (QQQ) is marginally positive on the day thanks to the Nasdaq, which is attempting to test Wednesday’s highs.

Weekly jobless claims sank, reaching their lowest level of the pandemic area, totaling 1.186 million last week, significantly below Wall Street projection, which were closer to 1.42 million based on economists surveyed by Dow Jones. The level for the week ended Aug. 1 illustrated a decline of 249,000 from the previous period.

Investors and analysts could see this as potentially positive news, as concerns that the employment picture was beginning to deteriorate again to a resurgence in coronavirus cases, after two record-breaking months of job creation, suggests that the claims number indicates something to build on. Continuing claims, or those who have collected benefits for two straight weeks, fell by 844,000 to 16.1 million.

Nevertheless, there are still concerns that we are not out of the woods yet. Even with this past week’s improvement, the total claims number is well above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 in 1982. There are currently also more than 18.8 million coronavirus cases worldwide, including over 700,000 deaths. The United States alone has almost 5 million cases and nearly 160,000 deaths, according to New York Times data.

“Both initial and continuing claims are at extremely high levels, and indicate that many employers continued to lay off workers in July,” PNC senior economist Bill Adams said in a note. “Further complicating the picture, the expiration of extended unemployment insurance benefits on July 31 may be clouding the signal from the claims data.”

With tensions remaining high as lawmakers struggle to complete a new stimulus deal, analysts are also concerned that a lack of such a deal could be catastrophic for stocks.

“If we don’t have a deal, we’ve got to have a sell-off,” Jim Cramer said on “Squawk on the Street.” “It’s not like we can just avoid a deal and say it doesn’t matter. And that’s what I’m getting concerned about.”

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