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Looming Jobs Report May Lead To Choppy Trading On Wall Street - U.S. Commentary


With traders continuing to digest OPEC's decision to curtail oil output, stocks may show a lack of direction in early trading on Thursday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a roughly flat open for the markets, with the Dow futures up by just 13 points.

Traders may be reluctant to make significant moves as they continue to observe the fallout from news OPEC plans to reduce oil production by about 1.2 million barrels to 32.5 million barrels a day.

The agreement marks the first time since 2008 that OPEC has agreed to curtail production and comes as a supply glut has weighed on prices.

Oil prices spiked higher in response to the news on Wednesday and are seeing further upside this morning. Crude for January delivery is climbing $1.04 to $50.48 a barrel after soaring $4.21 to $49.44 a barrel in the previous session.

The jump in oil prices may raise some concerns about the outlook for inflation and the prospect for further tightening by the Federal Reserve beyond the widely anticipated interest rate hike later this month.

Traders may also stick to the sidelines ahead of the release of the Labor Department's closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday.

Employment is expected to increase by 170,000 jobs in November after climbing by 161,000 jobs in October, while the unemployment rate is expected to hold at 4.9 percent.

The Labor Department released a report this morning showing that initial jobless claims climbed by much more than expected to reach a five-month high in the week ended November 26th.

The report said initial jobless claims rose to 268,000, an increase of 17,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 251,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to inch up to 253,000.

With the much bigger than expected increase, jobless claims reached their highest level since hitting 270,000 in the week ended June 25th.

Shortly after the start of trading, the Institute for Supply Management is scheduled to release its report on national manufacturing activity in the month of November.

The ISM's manufacturing index is expected to inch up to 52.3 in November from 51.9 in October, with a reading above 50 indicating growth in manufacturing activity.

The Commerce Department is also scheduled to release its report on construction spending in the month of October. Construction spending is expected to climb by 0.6 percent in October after dipping by 0.4 percent in September.

Stocks saw some volatility over the course of the trading session on Wednesday as traders reacted to news of OPEC's agreement to cut oil production.

While the Dow reached a record intraday high early in the session, the blue chip index pulled back near the unchanged as the day progressed before closing up just 1.98 points or less than a tenth of a percent at 19,123.58.

The S&P 500 also reached a record intraday high but turned lower and ended the day down 5.85 points or 0.3 percent at 2,198.81. The tech-heavy Nasdaq slid more firmly into negative territory, slumping 56.24 points or 1.1 percent to 5,323.68.

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 1.1 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose by 0.4 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets have moved to the downside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index has fallen by 0.5 percent, the German DAX Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index are down by 1 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.

In commodities trading, an ounce of gold is trading at $1,171.60, down $2.30 from the previous session's close of $1,173.90. On Wednesday, gold edged fell $16.90.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 114.32 yen compared to the 114.46 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.0627 compared to yesterday's $1.0589.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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