Stimulus bets buoy futures ahead of jobless claims

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(Reuters) – S&P 500 and Dow futures hovered near five-month highs on Thursday, as signs that a new coronavirus relief package was at hand lifted sentiment ahead of weekly unemployment data.

Leading U.S. Senate Republicans and the White House late on Wednesday said they had hammered out agreements in principle on portions of a potential coronavirus-response bill, as lawmakers raced to pass legislation by the end of July.

Optimism about a potential vaccine, fiscal stimulus and improving economic data has helped the benchmark S&P 500 recoup most of its virus-induced losses and rise 1.4% this year. The blue-chip Dow is still down about 5% year-to-date, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq (IXIC) has climbed about 19%.

Of the 75 S&P 500 companies that have reported quarterly results, 77.3% of them have beaten profit estimates.

Tesla Inc (O:TSLA) rose 5.3% premarket after posting a fourth consecutive quarterly profit, clearing a hurdle that could lead to the electric carmaker’s inclusion in the S&P 500 index (SPX).

Microsoft Corp (O:MSFT) slipped 1.6% as its flagship cloud computing business Azure reported quarterly sales growth of under 50% for the first time ever.

The Labor Department’s most timely data on the economy is likely to show about 1.30 million filed for jobless claims last week, unchanged from the prior week as a resurgence in new COVID-19 cases chipped at the budding recovery.

California on Wednesday overtook New York as the worst-hit state for cases as U.S. deaths from the coronavirus rose by more than 1,100 for a second day in a row.

At 6:23 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis <1YMcv1> were up 128 points, or 0.48%. S&P 500 e-minis were up 15 points, or 0.46%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 99.25 points, or 0.92%.

Home builder PulteGroup Inc (N:PHM) jumped about 5% after posting higher quarterly profit, as record low mortgage rates encouraged Americans to buy homes.

Southwest Airlines Co (N:LUV) posted a $915 million quarterly loss and warned travel demand would remain depressed until a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 becomes available. Still, its shares rose 0.9%.

American Airlines Group Inc (O:AAL), Alaska Air Group Inc (N:ALK), microblogging website Twitter Inc (N:TWTR) and wireless carrier AT&T Inc (N:T) are also due to report results on Thursday.