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U.S. stock futures edge higher as investors focus on jobs data

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U.S. stock futures rose on Thursday, after data showed weekly jobless benefit claims fell slightly as expected and investors began positioning for the monthly jobs report on Friday that will help shape views on how long the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying program will continue.

What’s happening
  • Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average
    YM00,
    +0.43%

    rose 79 points, or 0.2%, to 34,769.

  • S&P 500 futures
    ES00,
    +0.34%

    rose 0.3%; to 4,406.75.

  • Nasdaq-100 futures
    NQ00,
    +0.28%

    rose 0.2% to 15,106.25.

On Wednesday, U.S. stocks ended mostly lower, with the Dow industrials
DJIA,
+0.40%

retreating 324 points and the S&P 500
SPX,
+0.31%

slumping by 0.5%. The tech heavy Nasdaq Composite
COMP,
+0.33%

managed a 0.1% rise. The day included mixed readings on the U.S. economy, and Federal Reserve Vice Chair Richard Clarida’s comment that he thinks the jobs market may be healthy enough for interest rate rises by the end of 2022.

What’s driving the market?

Stock-index futures held on to modest gains after data showed first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week fell to 385,000, down 14,000 from the previous week and in line with forecasts, while continuing claims fell below 3 million for the first time since March 2020. Separately, the June U.S. trade deficit rose to a record, fueled by a surge in imports.

Investors began positioning ahead of the nonfarm payrolls report for July due Friday. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal expect 845,000 nonfarm jobs were created in July.

Steve Englander, head of global G-10 currency research and North America macro strategy at Standard Chartered, said a Friday payrolls report close to the current consensus could generate a market reaction even without a surprise, as it could firm up interest-rate expectations.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs boosted their year-end S&P 500 price target to 4,700 from 4,300. “Relative to consensus, we expect stronger revenue growth and more pretax profit margin expansion as firms successfully manage costs and as high-margin tech companies become a larger share of the index,” they said.

The Bank of England, as expected, kept its kept interest rates and its quantitative easing plan unchanged, while boosting its U.K. gross domestic product and inflation forecast.

Which companies are in focus?
  • Robinhood Markets Inc.
    HOOD,
    -13.64%

    shares were down more than 7% in premarket trade following the online brokerage’s 50% surge on Wednesday. Robinhood on Thursday filed to sell up to 97.9 million Class A shares over time. The sales will be made by selling shareholders upon the conversion of certain convertible bonds held in connection with the IPO and the company will not receive any proceedings.

  • Moderna Inc.
    MRNA,
    +2.14%

    said Thursday that its COVID-19 vaccine is 93% efficacious six months after the second dose as part of its second-quarter earnings announcement. Shares were down more than 3% in premarket trade, after soaring 20.9% the past two days to close at a record $419.05 on Wednesday.

  • Uber Technologies Inc.
    UBER,
    +1.91%

    shares were expected to retreat after reporting worse margins than forecast.

  • Shares of cloud-software company Fastly Inc.
    FSLY,
    -22.56%

    shed a fifth of their value in extended hours trade after the company reported the financial impact of an outage.

  • Etsy Inc.
    ETSY,
    -6.52%

    shares were also lower after the online arts marketplace had fewer active buyers than expected.

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