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5 things to know before the stock market opens Thursday

1. Wall Street set to wrap up strong month but weak quarter

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, March 30, 2022.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

U.S. stock futures were little changed Thursday as bond yields and oil prices dropped. Major international oil producers in OPEC+ were meeting under pressure to increase output to blunt high crude and gasoline prices amid reports the U.S. was considering releasing supply from its strategic oil reserves. On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 broke four-session winning streaks and the Nasdaq dropped for the first time in three days. With one day left in March, all three stock benchmarks were solidly higher for the month. However, as the wild first quarter comes to an end, Wall Street was tracking for a rough first three months of 2022.

Dow stock Apple rose in the premarket, the morning after seeing its 11-session 18% winning streak come to an end. Walgreens Boots Alliance, also a Dow component, fell 1% in Thursday’s premarket, shortly after reporting better-than expected earnings and revenue. Results were helped by increased demand for Covid booster shots and tests due to the spread of the omicron variant during the winter months.

2. Oil sinks ahead of OPEC+ decision, reports of U.S. crude release

The OPEC logo pictured ahead of an informal meeting between members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Algiers, Algeria.
Ramzi Boudina | Reuters

West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. oil benchmark, fell 6% to around $101 per barrel Thursday as traders await word from OPEC+ on its production plans. President Joe Biden is set to give remarks Thursday, with media reports saying he’ll detail plans to release 1 million barrels of oil per day for several months from America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

The move would be aimed at easing oil and gas prices that have surged on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent supply concerns, driving spikes in inflation across the global economy. Russia is a major oil exporter — and unprecedented sanctions for its unprovoked war have disrupted flows.

3. Yield spreads remain tight ahead of key jobs, inflation data

Treasury yields fell Thursday, but key spreads — the 5-year and 30-year as well as the 2-year and 10-year — remained tight. The 5-year Treasury yield inverted earlier this week and went above the 30-year yield, a market distortion that’s often happened before economic recessions. The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield dropped to 2.3%, backing away from near three-year highs.

Treasury yields

One day before the March employment report, the government is set to announce at 8:30 a.m. ET its weekly data on initial jobless claims. Economists were looking for a slight rise in first-time filings for unemployment benefits to 195,000 for the week ended March 26. The prior week’s reading of 187,000 was a 52 1/2 -year low.The Federal Reserve‘s favorite inflation gauge, the core personal consumption expenditures price index, is expected to have advanced 5.5% on a year-over-year basis in February, up slightly from the prior month’s biggest increase since April 1983. Markets expect the central bank to get more aggressive with interest rate hikes after increasing borrowing costs earlier this month for the first time in more than three years.

4. Ukraine’s president asks for more help to fend off Russia

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses the Ukrainian people, as Russia?s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 28, 2022.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his nation’s stiff defense against Russia’s invasion was at a “turning point,” and he again appealed to the U.S. for more help. Cease-fire talks, which took place face to face this week and sparked hope, are set to resume by video Friday. Russia has been playing down indications of progress and it appears to have gone back on its pledge to scale back some operations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with the head of the Republic of Ingushetia Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia March 30, 2022.
Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik | Reuters

Newly declassified U.S. intelligence indicates Russian President Vladimir Putin feels he was misled by military leaders who did not tell him key details about the botched invasion of Ukraine because they feared angering him, top Biden administration officials said Wednesday. This communications failure has “resulted in persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership,” White House communications director Kate Bedingfield told reporters.

5. Covid asylum limits may end; Biden urges passage of vaccine funds

The Biden administration is expected to end by May 23 the asylum limits at the U.S.-Mexico border that were put in place to prevent the spread of Covid, according to The Associated Press, citing people familiar with the matter. The decision, which isn’t final yet, would halt use of public health powers to absolve the U.S. of obligations under American law and international treaty to provide haven to people fleeing persecution.

U.S. President Joe Biden receives a second coranavirus disease (COVID-19) booster vaccination after delivering remarks on COVID-19 in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building’s South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 30, 2022.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Biden warned the U.S. will not have enough Covid vaccine doses this fall to ensure free and easy access for all Americans if Congress fails to pass the $22.5 billion in additional funding the administration has requested. Biden also said Wednesday the U.S. has enough supply to ensure people eligible for fourth shots have access to them after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week recommended another round of boosters.

— CNBC reporters Melissa Repko, Elliot Smith, Sam Meredith, Christina Wilkie and Spencer Kimball as well as The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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