Coronavirus latest: US airports report highest passenger numbers since the start of the pandemic

US stocks are set to build on record highs as investors respond to last week’s strong jobs data and await a key report that is expected to show that activity in the sprawling American services industry has gathered pace.

Futures tracking the blue-chip S&P 500 index climbed around 0.7 per cent in early New York dealings, with those following an index of the biggest 100 stocks on the Nasdaq Composite advancing 0.8 per cent.

The upbeat start to the week came after the S&P 500 last Thursday closed above 4,000 for the first time. New York equities were shut for the Good Friday holiday the following day.

Equity traders will on Monday have their first chance to respond to a report released on Friday that showed the US economy added 916,000 jobs in March, a figure that exceeded economists’ expectations and provided the latest indication the labour market is recovering.

A closely followed report from the Institute for Supply Management, due to be released at 10am ET (3pm BST), is expected to set a similarly optimistic tone. Activity in the vast services sector is forecast to have climbed at a more rapid pace in March than the prior month, echoing a similar survey released last week that covered the factory sector.

Easter weekend helped fuel the highest US airport passenger numbers of the coronavirus pandemic on Friday.

The Transportation Security Administration said it screened 1.58m passengers at US airports on Good Friday — the most since March 12 just before coronavirus lockdowns began.

Over Saturday and Sunday the TSA screened an additional 2.94m passengers, taking the number of travellers at US airports to more than 4.5m over the three-day holiday weekend — the highest levels since March last year.

The ramp up in US vaccinations, with more 165m doses administered in the US, and loosening of coronavirus restrictions have unleashed pent up travel demand.

US airline chiefs expressed optimism last month as air travel surged, with chief executives predicting slower cash burn. Recently, Delta Airlines, the last hold out, announced it will stop blocking middle seats on flights starting in May as vaccinations accelerate and demand rises. And United Airlines announced plans to start hiring pilots again next month.

A throwback monster movie and easing coronavirus restrictions drove a surge in box office ticket sales on Easter weekend. 

Warner Bros’ Godzilla vs Kong pulled in $32.2m over Friday, Saturday and Sunday for a pandemic-best weekend opening, data provider Comscore said. The movie, which premiered late on Wednesday has thus far nabbed $48.5m at the North American box office. 

The movie, which simultaneously streamed on HBO Max, set a number of pandemic records, according to Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian. These included the largest number of movie theatres at 3,064, the largest opening day at $9.6m, and the largest single-day of ticket sales: $12.5M on Saturday. 

Only 55 per cent of North American movie theatres were open over the weekend, according to Comscore.

Overseas, Godzilla vs Kong, drew in $71.6m at the box office, taking its overall box office tally to $285.4m. The movie launched in international markets the previous week.

The Indian state of Maharashtra, home to financial capital Mumbai and more than 100m people, introduced sweeping restrictions on the public and businesses as the country’s daily Covid-19 caseload hit a record high.

India reported 103,000 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, registering the highest number of daily infections globally. It surpassed its previous peak of nearly 100,000 daily cases in September.

The country recorded more than 500 deaths on Saturday, up from 100 or less at the start of March.

Maharashtra has led the resurgence, with more than 57,000 new infections announced on Sunday, and has accounted for many of the deaths. The western state is India’s economic powerhouse, accounting for 14 per cent of gross domestic product, according to research firm Capital Economics.

The restrictions in Maharashtra include a night-time curfew and weekend lockdown, while all but essential shops are to close. Most private offices will shut, restaurants only be available for takeaway and public gatherings have been curtailed.

The state introduced the measures amid fears health systems could be overwhelmed by the surge.

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Boris Johnson will on Monday confirm that England’s “non-essential” shops, pubs and restaurants can start to reopen from April 12, as he outlines the next stage of the lifting of the Covid-19 lockdown, officials said.

US-based Johnson & Johnson said it was “assuming full responsibility” of a Baltimore vaccine factory owned by Emergent BioSolutions after workers accidentally ruined a reported 15m doses of J&J’s vaccine by mixing ingredients for the jab and those for the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot.

The Indian state of Maharashtra, home to financial capital Mumbai, introduced sweeping restrictions on the public and businesses as the country’s daily Covid-19 caseload hit a record high of 103,000 new cases on Sunday. That marked the highest number of daily infections globally.

The likelihood of a co-ordinated global economic rebound from the coronavirus pandemic has diminished as slower vaccination rollouts and a fresh wave of infections in some countries result in “sharply divergent growth prospects”, according to exclusive research for the Financial Times.

US companies are facing the largest number of demands from investors to address environmental and social concerns in four years, as shareholders press management teams over their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Shareholders were dissatisfied with companies’ efforts to protect their workers from Covid-19. And Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are facing calls from shareholders for greater disclosure on pricing of Covid-19 vaccines and therapeutics.

Everyone in England will be able to access free twice-a-week coronavirus tests from April 9 as the government prepares to loosen lockdown restrictions further with the reopening of non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants.

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