Futures inch higher; market gears up for Tesla, Apple stock splits

Futures inched higher on Sunday evening, indicating Wall Street would extend last week’s rally when the opening bell rings on Monday, as investors position themselves for a busy week while pricing in new developments in the coronavirus crisis.

Last week’s nearly unbroken string of wins carried the Nasdaq and S&P 500 to new record closes, and allowed the Dow to reverse all of 2020’s bear market losses. Traders have been encouraged by an accomodative Federal Reserve, and the COVID-19 outbreak that appear to be moderating in the Sun Belt region — which until very recently had been a domestic epicenter of new infections. Additionally, encouraging developments in the race for a vaccine have given the market reasons for hope.

This week will be an acid test for assumptions about the U.S. recovery, which has defied much of the gloomy expectations associated with a relentless rise of coronavirus cases. With unemployment still elevated, the August payrolls data will be closely watched for signs the labor market is healing, and more displaced workers are finding unemployment.

“Recall that the U.S. non-farm payrolls collapsed by 22.1 million in March and April, noted Marc Chandler at Bannockburn Global Forex. “In the three months through July, about 9.28 million workers returned, or about 42%” of those thrown out of work.

“With a little bit of luck, the unemployment rate can slip back below 10%, the peak in the Great Financial Crisis,” he said, but warned that “some estimate that around a quarter of the overall job loss may be permanent.  That still leaves scope gradual improvement in the coming months.”

Investors are also watching the high-flying tech shares of Apple and Tesla — whose stocks will split on Monday after setting new record highs. Tech stocks have boosted market sentiment, and helped grease the wheels of a rally that’s carried benchmarks to consecutive closing highs thanks to Amazon (AMZN), Facebook (FB), and Alphabet (GOOGGOOGL), among others.

The broader S&P 500 Index has now risen 8 of the last 9 weeks — up 7 days straight — and set five straight record closes. Meanwhile, the Dow has now reversed all of its 2020 losses, and now sits less than 1,000 points away from February’s record high.

July’s high-frequency economic data broadly outperformed Wall Street’s estimates, the latest being robust personal income and spending data released on Friday. Taken together, economists now believe that third quarter growth could be “even boomier” than prior estimates, JPMorgan Chase said on Friday.

Given that “July activity indicators have generally printed favorably…we are lifting our tracking of current-quarter growth from 20.0% to 27.5%,” wrote economist Michael Feroli. The bank’s raised expectations were bolstered by data released by the St. Louis and New York Federal Reserve Banks, which also expect Q3 growth to soar.

“Even with some slowing in August-September household outlays, perhaps due to the interruption of federal income support, real consumer spending looks set to grow at 36.0% annual rate in Q3,” Feroli added.

6:45 p.m. ET Sunday: Stock futures rise as overnight session begins

Here were the main moves in equity markets, as of 6:45 p.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,512.50, up 8.00 (+0.23%)

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 28,697.00, up 86.00 (+0.30%)

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 12,010.75, up 19.00 (+0.16%)

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