Stock futures ticked up Sunday evening as investors at least temporarily shook off concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, even as a growing number of cities and states imposed more restrictions to try and bring the pandemic under control in the U.S.
Contracts on the Dow rose 132 points, or 0.45%, shortly after the overnight session kicked off at 6 p.m. ET. Contracts on each of the S&P 500 and Nasdaq also increased.
Last week, traders looked beyond through the increasingly dire coronavirus situation in the U.S., as hopes that a vaccine would be approved and distributed in the near-term helped to assuage some fears. The S&P 500 jumped to an all-time closing high on Friday as each of the three major indices posted weekly gains. Stocks and sectors that were hardest-hit by the pandemic made up some ground after lagging for the year-to-date, while tech stocks underperformed.
But with a vaccine unlikely to be available en masse for months, the pandemic remains a present threat.
The U.S. topped the grim milestone of 11 million coronavirus cases as of Sunday as deaths approached 250,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins. An average of nearly 150,000 new infections have been reported per day in the U.S. over the past week, for a sharp increase after first crossing the 100,000 mark for the first time during the pandemic earlier this month.
In recent days, more cities and states have added curfews and tightened their restrictions on daily activities as case counts soar. New Jersey’s new daily COVID-19 cases hit a record high on Saturday, and Illinois and Ohio both saw record numbers of new cases on Friday. Chicago posted a stay-at-home advisory late last week, and New York state had a new 10 p.m. curfew on bars, restaurants and gyms go into effect Friday. Oregon ordered a two-week “freeze” on non-essential business activity and large social gatherings, with Gov. Kate Brown warning of fines or arrests for violations.
“The story of the next few weeks will be a gradual and uneven—but unambiguous—tightening of anti-COVID restrictions across the country,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a note Sunday. “The rapid rate of growth of cases and infections threatens to overwhelm the hospital system by the end of the year, at which point current trends suggest that perhaps 250K people will be hospitalized with Covid, with about 60K in ICUs.”
“Politicians, therefore, will have no choice but to respond to the unfolding nightmare in hospitals,” he added. “They will restrict activity in the leisure and hospitality sector— perhaps closing bars and restaurants completely in the hardest-hit cities—and by limiting indoor gatherings, in homes and elsewhere. These measures work, but they exact a real cost on the economy.”
6:05 p.m. ET Sunday: Stock futures open higher
Here were the main moves in markets, as of 6:05 p.m. ET Sunday evening:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,599.00, up 17 points or 0.47%
Dow futures (YM=F): 29,542.00, up 132 points or 0.45%
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 12,007.75, up 74.25 points or 0.62%