Wall Street's main indexes were set to slip on Thursday as soaring Covid-19 cases and an unexpected rise in weekly jobless claims raised fears of stalling growth in the world's largest economy.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits totalled a seasonally adjusted 742,000 for the week ended Nov. 14, compared with 711,000 in the prior week, the Labor Department said. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 707,000 applications in the latest week.
The S&P 500 index was set for its third straight session of losses, retreating further from its record closing high hit on Monday following positive data on a coronavirus vaccine.
"The market is overextended on the high side, so it's not going to take much to knock it down," said Joe Saluzzi, co-manager of trading at Themis Trading in New Jersey.
Investors have also become wary of the near-term damage caused by tightening coronavirus-related restrictions and in the absence of fresh stimulus measures.
"Stimulus will be the key," Saluzzi added.
"Even a smaller package, half a trillion, will be well received and that's the right trick to keep certain businesses open and keep people paying their rent before the vaccine starts coming in."
The U.S. death toll from Covid-19 surpassed a grim new milestone of 250,000 on Wednesday, with New York City's schools calling a halt to in-classroom instruction, the latest in restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.
At 8:45 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 88 points, or 0.30%, S&P 500 e-minis were down 10.25 points, or 0.29%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 30.25 points, or 0.25%.
L Brands Inc surged 17.3% premarket after posting better-than-expected quarterly results, helped by record sales growth at Bath & Body Works and higher demand for Victoria's Secret lingerie.
Department store operator Macy's Inc fell 4.9% after it reported a more than 20% fall in third-quarter comparable sales.
Nvidia Corp slipped 1% after company executives said data centre chip sales would fall slightly in the fourth quarter.