Fresh news about the economy’s struggle to recover will come Thursday morning when the government releases its weekly report on unemployment claims.
New state filings have edged down in recent weeks, and Wall Street analysts expect the decline to continue, but improvements have been painstakingly slow.
“We’re stuck here at over 700,000 each week, and honestly the backdrop doesn’t seem to be improving that much,” Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said of the weekly state tallies.
At the same time, coronavirus cases are climbing at an alarming rate around the country. “Surging virus cases are going to result in more job losses and business closures,” Ms. Farooqi said.
Although the weekly figures for new claims have sunk from the stratospheric multimillion levels reached in the spring, they are still outrunning previous records.
And many people already collecting unemployment insurance have been hitting the 26-week limit on benefits that is in place in most states.
Those workers are eligible to receive an additional 13 weeks of benefits under a federal program called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, though the transfer from one program to the other is not automatic in several states.
Hundreds of thousands of other claims are being filed under another federal program, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which offers benefits to part-time, self-employed and other workers who are not normally eligible for state benefits.
Most economists agree that controlling the pandemic is a prerequisite for an economic recovery regardless of any government-ordered shutdowns.
News of the development of a vaccine that is 90 percent effective lifted hopes — and markets — this week. But Mary C. Daly, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said on Tuesday, “The economy right now is being dictated by coronavirus’s existence, and I think less by the potential for a vaccine.”
Several Fed officials, including the chair, Jerome H. Powell, have said Congress’s failure to agree on another relief package for individuals and business will hamper any recovery.
Stocks lost ground on Thursday as the exuberance over potential success in the development of a coronavirus vaccine faded in the face of steadily rising infections. A downbeat assessment of oil demand also cast a shadow on the markets. Wall Street futures were pointing to a small loss when trading begins.
The Stoxx Europe 600, a benchmark index for European shares, slipped 0.3 percent, and other major indexes on the continent were about 0.5 percent lower. Asian markets closed mixed, with the Hang Seng in Hong Kong down 0.2 percent, and the Nikkei in Japan rising 0.7 percent.
The recent rise in oil prices stalled after the International Energy Agency issued a report that said that the combination of a “poor outlook for demand and rising production” in countries like Libya meant that “fundamentals are too weak to offer firm support for prices.” Despite brightening prospects for a coronavirus vaccine, the agency said it did not anticipate a “significant impact” from such a breakthrough in the first half of 2021.
Shares in oil giants dragged indexes lower, with Royal Dutch Shell down 2.6 percent, and Total 1.5 percent lower.
Moderna, the pharmaceutical firm developing a coronavirus vaccine, said Wednesday evening that it had accumulated enough data to begin the first preliminary analysis of its drug. The results are expected within days, and Moderna’s shares rose nearly 5 percent in premarket trading. On Monday, promising news from Pfizer and BioNTech about their vaccine under development jolted markets higher.
Still, the virus is spreading in many parts of the world seemingly unchecked. The total number of people hospitalized with the virus in the United States reached 65,368, the most at any point in the pandemic. Worldwide, the number of new infections is growing faster than ever, with many European countries hit particularly hard.
Shares in Siemens, the giant engineering company in Germany, slumped as much as 5 percent after the company predicted only a moderate increase in profit next year.
As it prepares to start selling its fifth major game console in 25 years on Thursday, Sony has largely become the PlayStation company, reports Seth Schiesel.
Mark Cerny, Sony’s architect for the PlayStation 5 and an adviser to the company for decades, said in an interview last week that the involvement of Sony Music executives in the birth of PlayStation was important. It instilled a respect within the game division’s culture for the creative process and was a precursor of the company’s shift toward entertainment.
The second PlayStation, released in 2000, was a hit (and remains the world’s best-selling game console) propelled by Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto III and Sony’s expansion into new geographic markets.
The PlayStation 4, released in 2013, dominated the competition, selling more than twice as many units as Microsoft’s Xbox One. That victory gave Sony the financial breathing room it needed to mount a revival and perhaps become a beacon for the broader Japanese electronics industry.
Sony’s shares are up more than elevenfold since 2012, profits have risen, and the company is still one of Japan’s largest, with about 110,000 employees and a market value around $108 billion.
“Entertainment, led by gaming, is Sony’s new face, the company’s new growth driver,” said Kota Ezawa, a Citigroup analyst in Tokyo. “There has been a clear statement and direct change in direction by Ken Yoshida to move Sony from a traditional electronics business of selling boxes to a business selling entertainment.”
Jason Kilar, the recently installed chief executive of WarnerMedia, denied on Wednesday that AT&T, Warner’s parent, was interested in selling CNN.
“No, is the short answer,” he said in a virtual forum with employees. “I think we are just getting started.”
The forum was held a day after Warner executed job cuts affecting 5 to 7 percent of its 25,000 employees. (The reductions had been announced in August.) Mr. Kilar, who became chief executive in May with a directive to realign WarnerMedia’s disparate divisions around the HBO Max streaming service, discussed the cuts in a Tuesday staff email that he called “painful to write.”
“We have arrived at a number of difficult decisions that are resulting in a smaller WarnerMedia team,” he wrote. “This is a function of removing layers and the impact of consolidating previously separate organizations.”
Mr. Kilar declined to say during the forum which divisions endured the brunt of the layoffs.
“Please know, these reductions are not in any way a reflection of the quality of the team members impacted, nor their work,” he wrote in his email. “It is simply a function of the changes I believe we must make in order to best serve customers.”
Mr. Kilar, 49, reiterated his commitment to HBO Max, which he said added 2.1 million subscribers in the past quarter — bringing the total to 38 million since the service’s start in May. He also said he was confident the company would ultimately reach deals with Roku and Amazon Fire to make HBO Max available on their devices, but did not give a timetable.
Mr. Kilar, the founding chief executive of Hulu, has long prescribed that Hollywood needs to place consumers first, giving them more control over how and where they consume their media. WarnerMedia will be the place where he can turn his theories into action.