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Dow futures up 180 points as stocks look to add to record levels



Pedestrians walk in snow past the Wall Street subway station near the New York Stock Exchange.

Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Futures contracts tied to the major U.S. stock indexes rose at the start of extended trading Monday evening after finishing strong last week.

Dow futures rose 180 points, suggested an implied open of about the same magnitude, while S&P 500 contracts added 19.25 points, or 0.5%. Nasdaq 100 futures gained 67.5 points, or 0.5%.

The U.S. stock market was closed on Monday for Presidents Day.

The major averages finished last week with decent gains even as February’s rally appeared to cool off somewhat. The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average posted two little changed days, while the S&P 500 swung within 0.2% for three days in a row.

Still, the S&P 500 finished the week with a gain of 1.2%, while the Dow added 1%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 1.7%. All three closed at record levels on Friday.

Stock strategists say the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, economic reopening and expectations for more fiscal stimulus are key to the market’s buoyant February thus far.

“Covid is far from defeated, but the path toward economic normalization is clearer as more vaccines that reduce hospitalizations and eliminate fatalities are approved,” Dennis DeBusschere, strategist at Evercore ISI, said in an email.

“Treasury Secretary [Janet] Yellen’s forceful arguments for additional stimulus followed by Fed Chair [Jerome] Powell describing maximum employment as ‘our national goal’ helped lift bond yields, inflation expectations, and oil prices last week,” he added.

The Dow has gained 4.9% in February, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq have rallied 5.9% and 7.8%, respectively. The S&P 500 has raked in ten record closes in 2021.

Still, DeBusschere warned that rising interest rates and an uncertain policy outlook could keep trading from growing too frothy in the near term and recommended investors stick to cyclical stocks that could see the most upside as the U.S. economy recovers.

Those so-called cyclical sectors, those most sensitive to an economic rebound, have led the rally in February. Energy is up more than 13% month to date, with financials and materials also among the leading sectors.

In corporate news, CVS Health, Occidental Petroleum, Palantir and others will report earnings on Tuesday.

Executives from Robinhood, Melvin Capital and Citadel are scheduled to testify before the House Financial Services Committee on Thursday. Lawmakers are likely to grill the group on the wild trading in GameStop and other heavily shorted equities.

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Stock futures rise slightly as Wall Street looks to shake off Big Tech’s slide



U.S. stock futures moved slightly higher on Monday evening after tech stocks fell sharply to start the week.

Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 49 points, or 0.2%. Those for the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100 ticked up 0.2% and 0.1%, respectively.

The move in futures comes after a Monday session marked by stark differences in the sectors of the market. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite slid 2.5%, while the Dow rose a modest 27 points. Travel stocks, including airlines and cruise lines, rose sharply across the board, but Apple and Tesla declined.

The broader market finished lower, as the S&P 500 slipped 0.7% for its fifth-straight negative session. The decline came as U.S. Treasury yields rose once again, reflecting a fall in the price of bonds. The 10-year Treasury yield was trading above 1.36% on Monday after starting the year below the 1% mark.

“The higher Treasury yields move up, the quicker investors are rotating out of high-flying tech stocks and into stocks in the Russell 2000 Index and Dow Jones Industrial Average,” OANDA senior market analyst Edward Moya said in a note.

The bond market will likely remain a key topic of discussion on Tuesday, as Fed Chair Jerome Powell begins his two days of Congressional hearings. The central banker has been adamant that the Fed is not considering raising its benchmark interest rate, but Powell’s comments will be watched closely for possible insight into the economy’s inflation outlook.

Inflation fears have risen in recent weeks as policymakers debate another round of economic relief as Covid cases decline amid the rollout of vaccines. The U.S. surpassed 500,000 deaths from the virus on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Investors will also get new data on consumer confidence and home prices on Tuesday. Retailers Home Depot and Macy’s will report earnings before the opening bell.

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The market is getting nervous about Powell’s testimony this week



Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell speaks during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Washington, December 1, 2020.

Al Drago | Pool | Reuters

Rising bond yields and accompanying inflation fears are adding a level of drama to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell‘s appearance this week before Congress.

The central bank chair is slated to address Senate and House panels on successive days as part of mandated semiannual updates on monetary policy.

Normally routine affairs, recent financial market tumult and concerns about how the Fed may react have investors paying a bit more close attention than usual to the hearings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

“This is one of the more interesting episodes in which a Fed chair has had to testify,” said Nathan Sheets, chief economist at PGIM Fixed Income. “Sometimes we say, ‘ho hum, no news.’ This is going to be news. He’s really caught between a rock and a hard place.”

What’s got the market’s attention recently has been a pickup in government bond yields, particularly further out on the curve.

While the 2-year is unchanged for 2021, the 5-year has risen nearly a quarter percentage point as of Friday’s market close while the benchmark 10-year note has seen its yield jump 41 basis points to 1.34%, an area where it hasn’t been since around the same time in 2020, before the worst of the pandemic struck.

The 30-year bond yield has surged even more, leaping nearly half a point this year to 2.14%.

Powell’s dilemma is this: Rising bond yields could be signaling the reflation of the economy that the Fed has been pushing and are therefore higher for good reasons. However, should the trend get out of control, the Fed then might have to tighten policy faster than the market expects, offsetting some of the good that has come with the burst in yields.

Complicating the matter is that markets also might not like it if Powell is overly complacent.

“If this testimony was behind closed doors, I think Jay Powell would be quite pleased with what he sees in the economy and the markets,” Sheets said, using the Fed chair’s nickname. “But given that it’s public, he’s got to be careful. If he’s too sanguine about the rise in rates, the markets are going to take that as a significant green light for rates to rip higher.”

“The Fed is comfortable with an organic rise in rates reflecting shifts in views on growth and inflation,” he added. “But I think the Fed also wants to be careful that it doesn’t create and amplify a self-sustaining dynamic that pushes rates higher for other reasons.”

Those “other reasons” primarily would be fears that the economy could overheat.

Stimulus and more stimulus

The Fed has run historically loose policy for the past year, dropping its benchmark borrowing rate to near zero and buying at least $120 billion of bonds each month. That’s on top of a series of since-expired lending and liquidity programs implemented in the early days of the Covid-19 crisis.

Along with that, Congress has come in with more than $3 trillion of fiscal stimulus and could approve up to $1.9 trillion more by the end of week.

All that has transpired amid an economy that, besides a still-troubling employment problem primarily in the service sector, is humming. Wall Street is taking up first-quarter growth expectations and market-based indicators of inflation are rising.

That’s why Powell’s tightrope walk this week will be all the more compelling.

“The market mood has changed,” Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic advisor at Allianz, said Monday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” It’s no longer whether yields are going higher, it’s when is the move too big. That’s what the market’s trying to figure out.”

Investors are particularly concerned whether all the stimulus isn’t going overboard and threatening to destabilize the economy over the longer run.

“I can predict that the yellow lights are flashing all over the Fed because of the [yields] move and the steepening of the yield curve, and the Fed may do more to try to control yields,” El-Erian said.

Fed officials have largely dismissed so-called yield curve control to use its bond purchasing power to control rates between various fixed income maturities.

But the market could force the Fed’s hand, and Powell is likely to get asked about where he stands on what tools the Fed has to calm market issues. He has repeatedly stressed that the central bank has the weapons to control inflation, but deploying those comes with a price. Markets used to low yields and companies accustomed to cheap borrowing costs could get rattled by an unexpected Fed move.

Evidence of how clearly the market is watching the issue came Monday morning, when European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said she is “closely monitoring the evolution of longer-term nominal bond yields.” Her words where enough to calm a jittery market and turn what had been an opening loss on Wall Street into a mixed market with the Dow up in early afternoon trading. Treasury yields were mostly flat on the day.

Tom Lee, managing partner and head of research at Fundstrat Global Advisors, noted that his “clients have already expressed some apprehension about this week. Part of this reflects the fact that bond yields have been steadily rising and equity investors are nervous that the bond market might reach some sort of ‘breaking point'” during Powell’s testimony.

Powell speaks Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee when Wednesday to the House Financial Services Committee.

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The U.S. Covid-19 death toll has surpassed 500,000



The body of a patient who died is seen as healthcare workers treat people infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, U.S., December 30, 2020.

Callaghan O’Hare | Reuters

At 5 a.m. on July 11, Tara Krebbs received a call at her Phoenix home. Her mother was on the other end, hysterically crying. Tara’s dad had woken up unable to breathe, and he was on his way to the hospital.

Charles Krebbs, 75, started showing symptoms of Covid-19 shortly after Father’s Day in June, first running a fever and then losing his sense of taste and smell. With local hospitals overwhelmed, he had been trying to recover at home, still awaiting results of a Covid-19 test that had taken weeks to schedule. His results still weren’t back — even as EMTs rushed him to the emergency room.

Just weeks earlier, Tara had dropped off a Father’s Day present at her parents’ home with a card that read “next year will be better.” It was the last time she would see her dad until the night he died, when she was given an hour to say goodbye in person in the ICU. After nearly four weeks in the hospital, he lost his battle with the coronavirus in early August.

Charles Krebbs is one of more than 500,000 Americans who have died from Covid-19, a staggering toll that comes about a year after the virus was first detected in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. And for each of those lives lost, there are children, spouses, siblings and friends who have been left behind.

“I look at old pictures of him holding me and you can see how much he loved me,Tara said of her father, who worked as a real estate broker and an appraiser in Maricopa County. He was a music lover and history buff who enjoyed living near his daughter and her family, taking his grandson to his first day of kindergarten and coaching his Little League teams.

“He was just a caring, hands-on guy who loved his family more than anything,” said Krebbs.

Tara Krebbs and her father, Charles Krebbs

Tara Krebbs

Today’s grim milestone comes on the heels of some of the deadliest months of the pandemic. Following a fall and winter surge in Covid-19 cases, there were 81,000 reported deaths in December and 95,000 in January, both far surpassing April’s peak of just over 60,000. At the same time, U.S. health officials are racing to increase the pace of Covid-19 vaccinations across the country.

‘Dark winter’

Although the virus has been with us for more than a year, the scale of the death toll is hard to fathom. 

“As of this week during the dark winter of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 500,000 Americans have now died from the virus,” President Joe Biden said Monday in a statement. “On this solemn occasion, we reflect on their loss and on their loved ones left behind. We, as a nation, must remember them so we can begin to heal, to unite, and find purpose as one nation to defeat this pandemic.”

Biden added that he is ordering the American flag to be flown at half-staff on federal grounds until Friday to recognize the over 500,000 Americans who have died of Covid-19.

Nearly as many Americans have now died from Covid-19 as were killed in World War I and II, combined. The U.S. death toll represents a population roughly the size of Atlanta or Kansas City, Missouri.

“Even when you hear about half a million people dying, it sounds like a very large number, but it’s hard to put it into perspective,” said Cynthia Cox, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit focused on national health issues. “It’s hard for people to hear these big numbers and put faces to them.”

One reason for that is the nature of how these deaths have often occurred, in isolation and away from loved ones.

“The thing that has been different about Covid from other mass casualty events is the lack of video or personal connection at the time of death,” said Cox. “Covid wards are so sealed off for safety reasons that we don’t have news cameras in there to show us what this really looks like. We hear a lot of big numbers but we don’t get that personal connection unless we know someone.”

David Kessler, a Los Angeles-based grief expert and author who has been running an online support group for those who have lost someone to Covid, said that 500,000 deaths is a number “that the mind doesn’t want to comprehend.”

“A number like that makes the world dangerous, and we’d rather not live in a dangerous world,” he said.

Searching for a reference point, Kessler compared the Covid death toll to the two Boeing 737 Max airplane crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed a total of 346 people. 

“Think about how many 737 Maxes went down, how much news we had and the visuals we had,” he said. “You don’t realize that 500,000 people is the equivalent of almost 3,000 airplanes going down. Eight would have gone down yesterday. Can you imagine if eight planes crashed every day?”

A leading cause of death in the U.S. 

The Covid-19 death toll puts the disease firmly among the leading causes of death in the United States. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only heart disease and cancer killed more than 500,000 people in a year in 2019, the most recent annual figures available. When the daily death toll peaked in January, Cox found in a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis that Covid was killing more people per day than any other cause.

Covid-19, though, is a single illness, and not a group of illnesses that make up the CDC’s broader cause of death categories like heart disease and cancer. The Covid-19 numbers are even more stark in comparison with other specific illnesses like lung cancer, which killed 140,000 Americans in 2019, Alzheimer’s disease, which killed 121,000, or breast cancer, which killed 43,000.

Broken out this way, Cox said, the Covid death toll “really far exceeds any other single disease.”

How the Covid-19 death toll

compares with other U.S.

causes of death

35,000 Americans died from

Parkinson’s disease in 2019

43,000 died from breast cancer

50,000 died from the flu and


104,000 died from heart attacks

121,000 died from Alzheimer’s


140,000 died from lung cancer

500,000 died from Covid-19

over the past year

Iconography courtesy of ProPublica’s

WeePeople project

How the Covid-19 death toll compares with other U.S.

causes of death

35,000 Americans died from Parkinson’s disease in 2019

43,000 died from breast cancer

50,000 died from the flu and pneumonia

104,000 died from heart attacks

121,000 died from Alzheimer’s disease

140,000 died from lung cancer

500,000 died from Covid-19 over the past year

Iconography courtesy of ProPublica’s WeePeople project

The effect of the disease is so sweeping that in the first half of 2020, it sunk life expectancy in the U.S. by one year — a staggering drop, according to the latest analysis by the CDC.

The United States has been one of the hardest-hit countries by the coronavirus, with more reported deaths than anywhere else in the world. When adjusting for population, the U.S. trails only the U.K., the Czech Republic, Italy and Portugal in deaths per capita, according to a Johns Hopkins University analysis.

‘She meant a lot to a lot of people’

Isabelle Odette Papadimitriou was a respiratory therapist in Dallas, who spent the spring and summer caring for Covid patients at the hospital where she worked. In late June, she caught the virus herself and died shortly after on July 4, her favorite holiday. She was 64.

Her daughter, Fiana Tulip, remembers her mother as someone who was “strong as an ox” and had made it through countless flu outbreaks in her 30-year career. A fan of the British royal family who treated her two dogs “like little humans,” Tulip said she was the type of mother who would send her daughter Amazon packages as soon as she thought she needed something. After she died, Tulip received a pair of pink frilly shoes that Papadimitriou had sent for Tulip’s daughter, her first grandchild.

Over the course of the summer, Tulip got calls from her mother’s former colleagues and friends, ranging from an employee at Papadimitriou’s local doggy day care to the owner of a storage unit that she rented from in Texas.

“People who loved my mom were just coming out,” Tulip said. “She meant a lot to a lot of people.”

The pandemic isn’t over yet

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. have plummeted in recent weeks, and the pace of reported deaths is also slowing. The country is seeing just below 1,900 Covid-19 deaths a day, based on a weekly average, down from more than 3,300 a day in mid-January, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Nevertheless, the death toll will continue to increase. Projections from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington show a range of 571,000 to 616,000 total Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. by June 1, based on various scenarios.

Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, warned Americans on Sunday to avoid a sense of Covid-19 complacency despite the falling case numbers, saying that “the baseline of daily infections is still very, very high.”

The CDC has also identified at least three mutant virus strains in the U.S., some of which have been shown to be more transmissible than the dominant strain, though experts have largely said they expect the current vaccines to provide some protection against these variants.

So far roughly 44 million people, about 13% of the population, have received at least one shot of either Pfizer’s or Moderna’s two-shot vaccines, and Biden suggested during a CNN town hall last week that the country could return to some semblance of normalcy by Christmas.

But for those who have lost a loved one to Covid-19, Kessler, the grief expert, said things won’t be the same.

“If you’re talking about family members, we don’t recover from loss,” he said. “We have to learn to live with the loss.”

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