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


After moving sharply lower over the two previous sessions, 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 17 points.

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 increase by 145,000 jobs in September after rising by 130,000 jobs in August, while the unemployment rate is expected to hold at 3.7 percent.

Disappointing reports on manufacturing activity and private sector employment contributed to the sell-off seen on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Traders are also digesting news the U.S. plans to impose World Trade Organization-authorized tariffs on European goods after winning a dispute over European Union subsidies to aircraft maker Airbus.

The U.S. has the authority to apply a 100 percent tariff on up to $7.5 billion worth of goods, but the U.S. Trade Representative said the tariff increases will initially be limited to 10 percent on large civil aircraft and 25 percent on agricultural and other products.

A day ahead of the release of the more closely watched monthly jobs report, the Labor Department released a report showing a modest increase in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended September 28th.

The report said initial jobless claims rose to 219,000, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week's revised level of 215,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to inch up to 215,000 from the 213,000 originally reported for the previous week.

Not long after the start of trading, the Institute for Supply Management is scheduled to release its report on service sector activity in the month of September.

The ISM's non-manufacturing index is expected to slip to 55.1 in September from 56.4 in August, with a reading above 50 indicating growth in the service sector.

The Commerce Department is also due to release its report on factory orders in the month of August. Factory orders are expected to dip by 0.2 percent in August after jumping by 1.4 percent in July.

Stocks moved sharply lower over the course of the trading day on Wednesday, extending the significant pullback seen on Tuesday. With the continued weakness on the day, the major averages fell to their lowest closing levels in over a month.

The major averages climbed off their lows of the session but still closed firmly in negative territory. The Dow plummeted 494.42 points or 1.9 percent to 26,078.62, the Nasdaq slumped 123.44 points or 1.6 percent to 7,785.25 and the S&P 500 tumbled 52.64 points or 1.8 percent to 2,887.61.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower, with markets in China and South Korea closed for holidays. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index dove by 2 percent, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index plunged by 2.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets are turning in a mixed performance on the day, as the German markets are closed for a holiday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index has slumped by 1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index is up by 0.4 percent.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are slipping $0.14 to $52.50 a barrel after tumbling $0.98 to $52.64 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, after jumping $18.90 to $1,507.90 an ounce in the previous session, gold futures are edging down $1.90 to $1,506 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 107.03 yen compared to the 107.18 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.0963 compared to yesterday's $1.0959.

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