After ending the previous session moderately lower, stocks may move back to the upside in early trading on Friday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a slightly higher open for the markets, with the Dow futures up by 6 points.
The markets may benefit from the release of a report from the Labor Department showing that U.S. employment increased in line with economist estimates in the month of December.
The report showed that non-farm payroll employment increased by 155,000 jobs in December following an upwardly revised increase of 161,000 jobs in November.
Economists had expected employment to increase by about 155,000 jobs compared to the addition of 146,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.
The Labor Department also said the unemployment rate came in at 7.8 percent in December, unchanged from the previous month's revised figure.
Meanwhile, traders also continue to digest yesterday's release of the minutes of the latest Federal Reserve meeting, which suggested that the central bank could end its quantitative easing program earlier than anticipated.
The minutes showed that several members said it would probably be appropriate to slow or stop the Fed's asset purchases well before the end of 2013. The members cited concerns about financial stability or the size of the balance sheet.
Not long after the open, trading could be impacted by the release of the Institute for Supply Management's report on service sector activity in the month of December.
The ISM's index of activity in the service sector is expected to edge down to 54.5 in December from 54.7 in November, although a reading above 50 would still indicate growth in the sector.
With a negative reaction to the Fed minutes weighing on the markets late in the session, stocks ended Thursday's trading in the red after turning higher over the course of the morning.
The major averages regained some ground going into the close but still ended the day in negative territory. The Dow dipped 21.19 points or 0.2 percent to 13,391.36, the Nasdaq slid 11.69 points or 0.4 percent to 3,100.57 and the S&P 500 edged down 3.05 points or 0.2 percent to 1,459.37.
Despite the modest losses on the day, the major averages only partly offset the strong gains posted over the two previous sessions.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance on Friday. While Japan's Nikkei 225 Index surged up by 2.8 percent in its first trading day of the new year, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell by 0.3 percent.
The major European markets have also turned mixed on the day. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index has edged up by 0.1 percent, while the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index are down by 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.
In commodities trading, crude oil is falling $0.68 to $92.33 a barrel after slipping $0.20 to $92.92 a barrel on Thursday. Gold futures, which fell $14.20 to $1,674.60 an ounce in the previous session, are tumbling $34.30 to $1,640.50 an ounce.
On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 88 yen compared to the 87.24 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Thursday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.302 compared to yesterday's $1.3049.
by RTT Staff Writer
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