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Futures fall after two-day rally as focus turns to jobless numbers

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(Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures slipped on Thursday after a two-day rally as investors braced for what is expected to be one of the worst domestic jobless claims reports in history, underscoring the wide-ranging economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic.

The S&P 500 .SPX logged its first back-to-back gains since Feb. 12 on Wednesday as the mood was lifted by a $2 trillion economic rescue package, which was passed by the U.S. Senate and sent to the House of Representatives for a vote on Friday.

However, the benchmark index is still off by about $8 trillion from its mid-February record high as fears of a global recession and corporate defaults continue to rage amid a breakdown in business activity.

Traders expect wild swings in the market to continue until there is evidence of a peaking in new coronavirus cases.

“If $2 trillion in fiscal stimulus was only enough to keep markets afloat for a couple of days, that’s a huge warning sign for what lies ahead,” said Marios Hadjikyriacos, a Cyprus-based investment analyst at broker XM.

A glimpse of the scale of economic damage wrought by the outbreak will come when the U.S. Labor Department releases initial jobless claims data at 8:30 a.m. ET.

A Reuters poll predicts weekly jobless claims ranging from a minimum of 250,000 initial claims to up to 4 million. The poll shows a median forecast of 1 million claims, which would top highs logged during recessions in 1982 and 2009.

“This print could make or break the latest recovery in stocks,” Hadjikyriacos said.

In an unusual appearance, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is scheduled to speak on NBC television around 7:00 a.m. ET, which may provide more information about policymakers’ response to the outbreak.

The CBOE volatility index rose 1.5 points on Thursday, trading near levels last seen during the 2008 financial crisis.

At 06:11 a.m. EDT, Dow e-minis 1YMcv1 were down 198 points, or 0.94%, S&P 500 e-minis EScv1 were down 33.25 points, or 1.37% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQcv1 were down 93.75 points, or 1.26%.

SPDR S&P 500 ETFs (SPY.P) were down 1.33%.

The S&P 500 index .SPX closed up 1.15% at 2,475.56? on Wednesday.

Reporting by Uday Sampath and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Anil D'Silva

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