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Futures Pointing To Initial Strength On Wall Street - U.S. Commentary

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Following the mixed performance in the previous session, 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 29 points.

Despite the upward momentum, traders may be reluctant to make significant moves ahead of the release of the Labor Department's closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday.

Employment is expected to jump by 200,000 jobs in February, matching the increase seen in January. The unemployment rate is expected to dip to 4.0 percent from 4.1 percent.

Ahead of the monthly report, the Labor Department released a report this morning showing a bigger than expected rebound in initial jobless claims in the week ended March 3rd.

The report said initial jobless claims climbed to 231,000, an increase of 21,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 210,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to rise to 220,000.

The bigger than expected increase came after jobless claims fell to their lowest level since December of 1969 in the previous week.

Uncertainty about the details of President Donald Trump's planned tariffs on steel and aluminum imports may also keep some traders on the sidelines.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders suggested in comments on Wednesday that Mexico and Canada could be exempt from the tariffs.

Traders are also digesting the European Central Bank's latest monetary policy decision, with the ECB leaving rates unchanged, as widely expected.

The ECB's accompanying statement removed a phrase indicating a willingness to increase its asset purchase program if necessary.

"The change is arguably the ECB's first cautious step along a path of gradual policy normalization, which explains the immediate rise in the euro," said Jennifer McKeown, Chief European Economist at Capital Economics.

She added, "But it won't have come as a complete surprise given the ECB's earlier warning that it would 'revisit' its forward guidance early this year."

After initially moving to the downside, stocks fluctuated over the course of the trading session on Wednesday. While the major averages all climbed well off their worst levels of the day, only the Nasdaq managed to close in positive territory.

The major averages subsequently turned in a mixed performance on the day. The Nasdaq rose 24.64 points or 0.3 percent to 7,396.65, but the Dow fell 82.76 points or 0.3 percent to 24,801.36 and the S&P 500 edged down 1.32 points or 0.1 percent to 2,726.80.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index climbed by 0.5 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index surged up by 1.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets have turned mixed on the day. While the German DAX Index has fallen by 0.5 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is just above the unchanged line and the French CAC 40 Index is up by 0.4 percent.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are inching up $0.04 to $61.19 a barrel after plunging $1.45 to $61.15 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, an ounce of gold is trading at $1,326.40, down $1.20 compared to the previous session's close of $1,327.60. On Wednesday, gold slid $7.60.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 106.13 yen compared to the 106.07 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.2393 compared to yesterday's $1.2411.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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