By Geoffrey Smith
Investing.com — U.S. President Joe Biden’s tax plans may hit fewer companies than his campaign promises suggested: new details from the Treasury are supporting tech stocks as Wall Street gets ready to open. U.S. jobless claims are expected to have resumed their downward trend last week, while Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will speak later. AstraZeneca shares rise despite the fact that concerns about its Covid-19 vaccine’s safety refuse to go away. And crude oil still can’t get through $60 a barrel. Here’s what you need to know in financial markets on Thursday, April 8th.
1. Biden softens tax plan
President Joe Biden’s plans to tax companies more are turning out less ambitious than his election campaign promises suggested.
The U.S. Treasury released further details of its plans on Wednesday, the 15% minimum tax proposed last week by Janet Yellen would only apply to companies with over $2 billion in annual income, rather than the $100 million touted last year.
The proposals have breathed life into a multilateral push to agree a common framework for corporate taxation. G20 finance ministers discussed the issue on Wednesday and are now again aiming for an agreement by July. The initiative, which is nearly a decade old, has missed many such deadlines already, but if it comes to fruition, it could avert the creation of national taxes on digital service companies, removing one major bone of contention between the U.S. and Europe.
2. Jobless claims due, Powell speech eyed
The latest week’s jobless claims data hit the wires at 8:30 AM ET (1230 GMT), and are expected to resume their downward trend after an unexpected jump to 719,000 last week. Analysts expect 680,000 initial jobless claims, which would be the second-lowest since the pandemic started.
The initial claims data have suggested that the pandemic is by no means through in killing jobs across the country, but steady declines in broader measures of continuing claims and a sharp rise in hiring and job vacancies have indicated that the labor market is now clearly building momentum.
Elsewhere, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is expected to speak at 12 PM ET at the International Monetary Fund’s virtual spring meeting, but is unlikely to add much to the minutes from the last Fed policy meeting that were released on Wednesday.
3. Stocks set to open higher; tech supported by tax plans
U.S. stock markets are set to open higher later, after two days of drift, with the softening of President Biden’s tax plans improving sentiment toward Big Tech names somewhat.
By 6:15 AM ET, Dow Jones futures were effectively flat, up a mere 10 points, but S&P 500 futures were up 0.3% and Nasdaq 100 futures were up 0.8%.
Stocks likely to be in focus later include brewer Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ), whose outlook will be colored by the expected impact of economic reopening, and food company Conagra. The two are both scheduled to release quarterly earnings at 7:30 AM ET.
4. AstraZeneca stock rises even as vaccine fears refuse to go away
Shares in AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) rose 2.9% in London trading after an updated statement from European medical regulators turned out less negatively than some had feared.
The European Union and U.K. now both acknowledge a possible link between the vaccine and potentially dangerous blot clotting disorders, but both still argue that the risks of taking it are outweighed by its benefits. The U.K.’s Medicines and Health Regulatory Agency has identified 19 deaths from such blood clots, after having dispensed 20 million shots of the AstraZeneca jab.
The vaccine has the most advance orders worldwide of any Covid-19 drug due to AZ’s policy of selling it at cost price while the pandemic lasts. As such, any evidence that it is fundamentally unsafe would be a threat to vaccination campaigns in poorer countries. That is all the more important given that it countries such as India and Brazil are currently experiencing their worst wave of Covid-19 cases.
5. Oil struggles despite inventory reports
Crude oil prices continue to struggle below $60 a barrel, amid fears that Covid-19 waves in India and South America will slow the recovery in global demand.
Bullish headlines on U.S. crude inventories, which fell by more than expected last week, were also undermined by less encouraging developments in gasoline trends, raising questions about the strength of final demand.