Futures flat after jobless claims data; drugmakers extend fall

(Reuters) -U.S. stocks were set for a subdued open on Thursday after data showed weekly jobless claims fell more than expected, while vaccine makers came under pressure after President Joe Biden’s plan to back intellectual property waivers on COVID-19 shots.

FILE PHOTO: The Wall St. sign is seen near the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., May 4, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Shares in Pfizer Inc, Moderna Inc, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax Inc, all involved in the making of COVID-19 vaccines, fell between 0.8% and 9.2% in premarket trading.

The declines were triggered after Biden said he had backed a World Trade Organization waiver for vaccine intellectual property to enhance the fight against the pandemic.

Moderna also raised its 2021 sales forecast for its COVID-19 vaccine, reflecting demand from countries looking to return to normalcy through rapid inoculation.

“It could clearly reduce potential revenues some of these firms were expecting to generate from licensing their patents,” said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended at a record high in the previous session, supported by a rise in economically sensitive cyclical stocks, while the Nasdaq was hit by declines in growth stocks.

Shares of highly valued technology-related stocks like Microsoft Corp, Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc and Amazon.com Inc were trading flat to slightly lower.

A Labor Department report showed fewer Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week as the labor market recovery gains steam amid an economic boom.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits totaled a seasonally adjusted 498,000 for the week ended May 1 compared to 590,000 in the prior week.

Investors are awaiting the more comprehensive non-farm payrolls data on Friday to get clues on strength of the labor market and potentially the U.S. Federal Reserve’s stance on monetary policy.

“The Fed is looking at more jobs created before they think there will be an issue and we are very far away from that,” said Arthur Weise, chief investment officer at Kingsland Growth Advisors in New York.

At 8:50 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 41 points, or 0.12%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 1 point, or 0.02%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 3 points, or 0.02%.

Among other stocks, ViacomCBS Inc rose 4.1% after reporting quarterly revenue that beat Wall Street estimates.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc edged 0.4% higher after the drugmaker reported a 78% rise in first-quarter profit, helped by a robust recovery in demand for its eye drug Eylea.

Uber Technologies Inc fell 3.6% as it signaled it would pay drivers more to get cars back on the road and disclosed a $600 million charge to provide UK drivers with benefits.

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