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U.S. Stocks May Move Modestly Higher In Early Trading

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After coming under pressure over the course of the previous session, stocks may move back to the upside in early trading on Thursday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a slightly higher open for the markets, with the Dow futures up by 11 points.

The modest upward momentum on Wall Street comes after a report from the Wall Street Journal said China's chief trade negotiator has invited his American counterparts to Beijing for a new round of face-to-face talks.

Citing people briefed on the matter, the WSJ said Chinese Vice Premier Liu He extended the invitation to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a phone call late last week.

The report of the invitation for a new round of talks comes amid renewed uncertainty about the potential for the U.S. and China to finalize a phase one trade deal.

On Wednesday, a report from Reuters said completion of a phase one U.S.-China trade deal could slide into next year.

Trade experts and people briefed on the talks told Reuters a deal is still elusive and negotiations may be getting more complicated.

Reuters said the delay in signing the deal comes as China presses for more extensive tariff rollbacks, and the Trump administration counters with heightened demands of its own.

President Donald Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he has not made a trade deal with China yet because Beijing is not "stepping up to the level that I want."

In U.S. economic news, the Labor Department released a report showing first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits came in unchanged in the week ended November 16th.

The report said initial jobless claims came in at 227,000, unchanged from the previous week's revised level. Economists had expected jobless claims to dip to 219,000 from the 225,000 originally reported for the previous week.

A separate report from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve showed growth in regional manufacturing activity accelerated by more than anticipated in the month of November.

The Philly Fed said its diffusion index for current general activity climbed to 10.4 in November after falling to 5.6 in October, with a positive reading indicating growth in regional manufacturing activity. Economists had expected the index to rise to 7.0.

Not long after the start of trading, the National Association of Realtors is scheduled to release its report on existing home sales in the month of October. Existing home sales are expected to jump by 1.4 percent in October after tumbling by 2.2 percent in September.

The Conference Board is also due to released its report on leading economic indicators in the month of October. The leading economic index is expected to dip by 0.2 percent.

Stocks climbed well off their worst levels of the day but still ended Wednesday's trading firmly in negative territory. The major averages all moved to the downside after ending the previous session on opposite sides of the unchanged line.

After reaching a record closing high on Tuesday, the Nasdaq slid 43.93 points or 0.5 percent to 8,526.73, while the Dow fell 112.93 points or 0.4 percent to 27,821.09 and the S&P 500 dropped 11.72 points or 0.4 percent to 3,108.46.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index fell by 0.5 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index plunged by 1.6 percent.

The major European markets have also moved to the downside on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index has slid by 0.8 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index are both down by 0.1 percent.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are rising $0.30 to $57.31 a barrel after soaring $1.66 to $57.01 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, after edging down $0.10 to $1,474.20 an ounce in the previous session, gold futures are slipping $3.70 to $1,470.50 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 108.57 yen compared to the 108.61 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.1079 compared to yesterday's $1.1073.

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