WASHINGTON (Alliance News) - After ending the previous session roughly flat, stocks may move to the upside in early trading on Thursday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a modestly higher open for the markets, with the Dow futures up by 27 points.
Some early buying interest may be generated by the release of a report from the Labor Department showing that initial jobless claims fell by more than expected in the week ended March 1st.
The report said initial jobless claims fell to 323,000, a decrease of 26,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 349,000. Economists had expected claims to drop to 338,000.
The data represents an upbeat sign for the labor market ahead of tomorrow's closely watched monthly jobs report.
Peter Boockvar, managing director at the Lindsey Group, said, "We'll see tomorrow how this translates into payroll gains but we know anything soft will just be given a hall pass."
Meanwhile, the Labor Department released a separate report showing a notable downward revision to the pace of labor productivity growth in the fourth quarter of 2013.
The report said productivity increased by 1.8% in the fourth quarter compared to the previously reported 3.2% increase. Economists had expected the pace of productivity growth to be downwardly revised to 2.4%.
The Labor Department also said unit labor costs edged down by just 0.1% in the fourth quarter, reflecting a notable revision from the previously reported 1.6% drop.
Not long after the open, the Commerce Department is scheduled to release a report on factory orders in the month of January. Economists expect orders to dip by 0.5%.
Trading activity may be somewhat subdued, however, as some traders are likely to remain on the sidelines ahead of tomorrow's jobs report.
With traders taking a break following the volatility seen earlier this week, stocks showed a lack of direction throughout the trading day on Wednesday.
The major averages spent the day lingering near the unchanged line before closing mixed. While the Nasdaq crept up 6.00 points or 0.1% to 4,357.97, the Dow dipped 35.70 points or 0.2% to 16,360.18 and the S&P 500 edged down 0.10 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 1,873.81.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index surged up by 1.6%, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advanced by 0.6%.
The major European markets have also moved to the upside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index has risen by 0.9%, the German DAX Index and the UK's FTSE 100 Index are up by 0.4% and 0.3%, respectively.
In commodities trading, crude oil futures are sliding USD0.75 to USD100.70 a barrel after falling USD1.88 to USD101.45 a barrel on Wednesday. Gold futures, which rose USD2.40 to USD1,340.30 an ounce in the previous session, are receding USD4.50 to USD1,335.80 an ounce.
Among currencies, the US dollar is trading at 103.02 yen compared to the 102.30 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at USD1.3802 compared to yesterday's USD1.3733.
Copyright RTT News/dpa-AFX