Investors nervously eye crucial U.S. jobless claims report as global markets tick higher

April 2, 2020, 9:24 AM UTC

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Good morning, Bull Sheeters. Yesterday’s sell-off was no joke. But markets are bouncing back today. Let’s take a closer look.

Markets update

Asia is mixed. Japan’s Nikkei is down, but the Hang Sang and Shanghai Composite are both trading higher. The biggest news out of the region is China’s move to stockpile cheap crude, taking advantage of rock-bottom prices. The oil markets cheered. Brent futures climbed 12% on the news, Bloomberg reports.


Europe looks a little better at the open. The European bourses are clinging to early gains. Germany and Italy extended coronavirus lockdown measures yesterday. That’s amid signs that Italy is beginning to see evidence the outbreak numbers are stabilizing. It’s very likely today the pandemic death toll will top 50,000 worldwide.

As happened in the U.S. last week, Britons en masse filed for unemployment benefits at record numbers, yet another bleak sign for the global jobs situation. In the past two weeks, nearly 1 million filed for “universal credit” as they call it in the U.K.


As I type, the Dow and S&P 500 futures are in the green. Both indices look set to open up by nearly 2%. The markets are extremely volatile, however. It’s almost impossible to assess whether investors see this as a risk-on or risk-off day.


Elsewhere, the dollar is flat (though climbing against the euro), putting an end to a three-day winning streak. Gold is up, and oil is rebounding strongly on the China news. Even if Brent holds on to its impressive gains, it’ll still be down more than 50% YTD.


Investor pessimism today is as bad as it has been,” Dennis DeBusschere of Evercore ISI told Bloomberg yesterday, during a rough day on the markets. “All estimates of when this will end are being pushed out, which means even harder hits to GDP/earnings.”

As the U.S. becomes the new epicenter for coronavirus, the markets will be glued to the daily infections-and-death numbers there. If Europe is any judge, the worst is yet to come. That’s foremost on the mind of investors, and it was reflected in yesterday’s brutal sell-off


April 1st was no joke

Gold, the dollar and crude climbed yesterday as investors ditched riskier equities. The fall in the S&P more than wiped out the Monday-Tuesday gains.

All eyes are on jobless claims later this morning, which are expected to hit 3.5 million. That would exceed last weeks’ record totals. A reported number that comes in on either side of that estimate could swing the markets in either direction today. The global markets appear to be holding fire until that news comes in.


Today’s entry will be mostly visual.

Italy may lead the world in collections of ancient funerary art. (Sorry, the markets have put me into that kind of mood today.) In most every town and city you can find these massive marble slabs depicting humanity having truly bad days.

Struggling to pull your pal out of the water before he gets swallowed whole by a sea monster—that would be my definition of a bad day. Look at the character on the far right. He can barely watch!

I snapped this photo two years ago. It’s a panel from a Roman sarcophagus found at a church-turned-museum in Perugia. My sister-in-law, an art expert, tells me it dates back to mid-13th century, a period of brutal plagues and pandemics that forever transformed Europe.

So, just a reminder (to myself): it could be worse.

Have a good day, and stay safe. I’ll see you here tomorrow senza sea monsters.

Bernhard Warner

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Today's reads

Raiding your retirement fund. The penalty for withdrawing money from your 401(k) account has been waived under the coronavirus stimulus act passed last week. Investors of any age can now pull out as much as $100,000 (or up to 100% of the balance). But there's a lot of fine print. Fortune's Lee Clifford explains how to take advantage of this loophole without digging a deeper financial hole.

Shale shutters. With the price of crude dropping to multi-year lows, the markets have been bracing for a wave of bankruptcies on America's shale patch. Yesterday we saw the first U.S. shale producer to file for Chapter 11 protection, the Wall Street Journal reports, with more expected to come.

Walking away from WeWork. Japanese mega-investor SoftBank will abandon its plan to buy $3 billion worth of WeWork stock held by Adam Neumann, the shared-workspace's ousted CEO, and other shareholders, Bloomberg reports. This development had been hinted at for weeks, and is now expected to trigger a fierce legal battle.

Market candy

Deal of the day

If you find yourself in Switzerland, you can now quarantine in style at the Le Bijou luxury hotel chain. Get a load of this deal. Price: $800 to $2,000 per night, according to CNBC. "Facilities include food delivery and a personal chef, as well as a private gym, in-room spa treatments and a home office."

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