After moving moderately higher over the course of the two previous sessions, stocks may move back to the downside in early trading on Thursday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a modestly lower open for the markets, with the Dow futures down by 21 points.
Disappointing jobs data may weigh on the markets in early trading, with a report from the Labor Department showing a bigger than expected increase in initial jobless claims in the week ended September 8th.
The report showed that initial jobless claims rose to 382,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 367,000. Economists had been expecting jobless claims to edge up to 370,000 from the 365,000 originally reported for the previous week.
A separate report from the Labor Department showed that a substantial rebound in energy prices contributed to a bigger than expected increase in producer prices in the month of August.
The Labor Department said its producer price index surged up by 1.7 percent in August following a 0.3 percent increase in July. Economists had expected the index to increase by 1.4 percent.
Excluding the jump in energy prices as well as a notable increase in food prices, the core producer price index edged up by 0.2 percent in August after rising by 0.4 percent in July. The modest increase in core prices came in line with economist estimates.
Nonetheless, the data is likely to be overshadowed by the Federal Reserve's announcement of its latest decision on monetary policy, which is due at about 12:30 pm ET. Trading activity may remain relatively subdued ahead of the announcement.
Many analysts expect the central bank to announce another round of quantitative easing as part of an effort to stimulate the sluggish economy.
While others have predicted that the Fed will only extend its pledge to keep interest rates at exceptionally low levels, a lack of additional stimulus could lead to a sell-off on Wall Street.
Following the announcement, the Fed will unveil its latest economic forecasts at 2 pm ET, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will hold a press briefing beginning at about 2:15 pm ET.
Stocks moved modestly higher during trading on Wednesday but largely ended the session well off their best levels of the day. The markets benefited from a positive reaction to the latest news out of Europe, although buying interest was subdued ahead of the announcement from the Fed.
The major averages all ended the day in positive territory for the second straight session. The Dow inched up 9.99 points or 0.1 percent to 13,333.35, the Nasdaq rose 9.78 points or 0.3 percent to 3,114.31 and the S&P 500 edged up 3.00 points or 0.2 percent to 1,436.56.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Thursday. While Japan's Nikkei 225 Index rose by 0.4 percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index edged down by 0.1 percent.
The major European markets have also turned mixed on the day. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index has inched up by 0.1 percent, while the German DAX Index is down by 0.4 percent and the French CAC 40 Index has fallen by 0.9 percent.
In commodities trading, crude oil futures are climbing $0.27 to $97.28 a barrel after slipping $0.16 to $97.01 a barrel on Wednesday. Gold futures, which fell $1.20 to $1,733.70 an ounce in the previous session, are edging down $0.10 to $1,733.60 an ounce.
On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 77.52 yen compared to the 77.85 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.29, unchanged compared to yesterday.
by RTT Staff Writer
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