Futures steer sharply higher on reports of coronavirus drug breakthrough

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Stocks set to extend gains

U.S. stock index futures edged higher this morning looking to extend Tuesday’s gains, buoyed by reports of a breakthrough in the treatment of the deadly coronavirus that has thus far killed 490 people and infected 24,324 in mainland China.

According to a report by Sky News, the scientist leading the United Kingdom’s research team into a coronavirus vaccine says they have made a significant breakthrough in the fight against the highly-infectious disease. The scientist claims his team has managed to reduce a part of the normal development time from two to three years to just 14 days.

Several Chinese media outlets are also reporting that a research team at Zhejiang University has found an effective drug to treat people with the virus.

At around 4:45 a.m. ET, the blue-chip Dow futures were up 257 points, or 0.89% to 29,046 while the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 futures rose 91.88 points, or 0.98% to 9,446.88. The S&P 500 futures were seen gaining 27.62 points, or 0.84% to 3,327.12.

In commodities, U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were up $1.20, or around 2.42%, at $50.81 per barrel. International Brent crude oil futures were at $55.38 a barrel, up $1.42, or about 2.63%.

Disney+ reaches 28.6 million subscribers since launching in November

Meanwhile, Disney (NYSE: DIS) confirmed late Tuesday that its new streaming service has amassed 28.6 million subscribers since its debut on November 12. That is well ahead of the 20 million figure that Wall Street analysts expected the service to make by the end of 2020.

The entertainment giant also reported fiscal first-quarter earnings and revenue that were above Wall Street’s forecasts. Earnings came in at $1.53 per share while revenue grew 36% to $20.86 billion, thanks in part to its acquisition of key Fox assets.

On average, analysts had called for Disney earnings of $1.43 per share on revenue of $21.08 billion. “We had a strong first quarter, highlighted by the launch of Disney+, which has exceeded even our greatest expectations,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a press release.

At the time of writing, Disney stock was up 0.66% to $145.68 a share in premarket trade Wednesday.

Macy’s plans to close hundreds of stores and cut 2,000 jobs

Macy’s (NYSE: M) said Tuesday it plans to shut down nearly one-fifth of its department stores, or 125 stores, and cut 10% of its corporate staff over the next three years in an attempt to turn around its business.

Nearly 2,000 workers will lose their jobs at the retailer’s tech offices in San Francisco and its headquarters in Cincinnati. Mercy’s estimates the job cuts will save it $1.5 billion by 2022.

CEO Jeff Gennette said the company will focus its resources on the healthy parts of its business, directly address the unhealthy parts of the business and explore new revenue streams.

Macy’s and other department stores like Sears have struggled to compete with low-price clothing chains such as TJMaxx and online retail titans like Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN).

Macy’s stock rose 1.09% to $16.65 a share in premarket trade Wednesday.

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