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U.S. Stocks May Open Higher Amid Signs Of Progress In Trade Talks

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After showing a lack of direction over the two previous sessions, stocks are likely to move to the upside in early trading on Thursday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a higher open for the markets, with the Dow futures up by 158 points.

Stocks are likely to resume their recent advance after a spokesman for the Chinese Commerce Ministry said the U.S. and China have agreed to lift existing tariffs in phases.

"The trade war started with tariffs and should end with the cancellation of tariffs," said ministry spokesman Gao Feng, who noted phase one of a trade deal must include both countries simultaneously canceling tariffs on each other's goods.

The U.S. has widely been expected to scrap tariffs on about $156 billion worth of Chinese imports currently set to take effect on December 15th as part of phase one.

"Both sides have agreed to cancel additional tariffs in different phases, as both sides make progress in their negotiations," Gao added without providing a timetable.

The latest news has helped offset the negative sentiment generated by yesterday's report from Reuters indicating a meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping could be delayed until December.

A senior Trump administration official told Reuters discussions continue over terms of phase one of the trade deal and a venue for a meeting between Trump and Xi.

Sites in Europe and Asia have been suggested for the meeting, with Sweden and Switzerland among the possibilities, while Trump's suggestion of Iowa appears to have been ruled out, the official said.

The official said China's latest push for more tariff rollbacks was not expected to derail progress toward an interim deal but noted that it was still possible an agreement would not be reached.

In U.S. economic news, the Labor Department released a report showing a bigger than expected decrease in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended November 2nd.

The report said initial jobless claims slid to 211,000, a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week's revised level of 219,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to dip to 215,000 from the 218,000 originally reported for the previous week.

Stocks showed a lack of direction over the course of the trading session on Wednesday, extending the lackluster performance seen on Tuesday. The major averages once again spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line.

Eventually, the major averages ended the session mixed. While the S&P 500 inched up 2.16 points or 0.1 percent to 3,076.78, the Dow edged down 0.07 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 27,492.56 and the Nasdaq dipped 24.05 points or 0.3 percent to 8,410.63.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index crept up by 0.1 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose by 0.6 percent.

The major European markets have also moved to the upside on the day. While the German DAX Index has climbed by 0.8 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is up by 0.5 percent and the French CAC 40 Index is up by 0.2 percent.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are jumping $0.95 to $57.30 a barrel after slumping $0.88 to $56.35 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, after climbing $9.40 to $1,493.10 an ounce in the previous session, gold futures are sliding $10.50 to $1,482.60 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 109.14 yen compared to the 108.98 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.1070 compared to yesterday's $1.1066.

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