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Stocks May Show A Lack Of Direction In Early Trading - U.S. Commentary

With traders digesting the latest batch of U.S. economic data, stocks may show a lack of direction in early trading on Thursday. The major index futures are currently pointing to slightly higher open for the markets, with the Dow futures up by just 12 points.

The futures had been pointing to a notably higher open earlier in the morning but have pared their gains following the release of the Labor Department's weekly jobless claims report, which showed a notable increase in claims in the week ended April 7th.

The report showed that initial jobless claims rose to 380,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 367,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to edge up to 359,000 from the 357,000 originally reported for the previous week.

A separate report from the Labor Department showed that producer prices unexpectedly came in unchanged in March amid a drop in energy prices.

The Labor Department said its producer price index was flat in March following a 0.4 percent increase in February. Economists had been expecting the index to increase by 0.3 percent.

Excluding food and energy prices, the core producer price index rose by 0.3 percent in March after edging up by 0.2 percent in February. The core index had been expected to increase by 0.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department also released a report showing that the U.S. trade deficit narrowed significantly in the month of February.

The report showed that the trade deficit narrowed to $46.0 billion in February from $52.5 billion in January. Economists had been expected a trade deficit of about $51.7 billion.

In corporate news, shares of Sony (SNE) may be in focus after the consumer electronics giant said it will cut about 10,000 jobs in fiscal 2012 as part of a turnaround plan.

Stocks turned in a strong performance during trading on Wednesday, regaining some ground after moving sharply lower on Tuesday. The markets benefited from a positive reaction to aluminum giant Alcoa's (AA) quarterly results.

The major averages ended the session well off their best levels of the day but still closed firmly in positive territory. The Dow climbed 89.46 points or 0.7 percent to 12,805.39, the Nasdaq rose 25.24 points or 0.8 percent to 3,016.46 and the S&P 500 advanced 10.12 points or 0.7 percent to 1,368.71.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher on Thursday, benefiting from the overnight rebound on Wall Street. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index rose by 0.7 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended the day up by 0.9 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets have moved back to the downside on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is down by 0.5 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index are down by 0.4 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are dipping $0.12 to $102.58 a barrel after advancing $1.68 to $102.70 a barrel on Wednesday. Gold futures, which slipped $0.40 to $1,660.30 an ounce in the previous session, are falling $5.30 to $1,655 an ounce.

Among currencies, the U.S. dollar is trading at 80.88 yen compared to the 80.86 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.3145 compared to yesterday's $1.3109.

by RTT Staff Writer

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