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U.S. Stocks May Extend Yesterday's Advance In Early Trading

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Stocks are likely to move to the upside in early trading on Thursday, adding to the gains posted in the previous session. The major index futures are currently pointing to a higher open for the markets, with the Dow futures up by 92 points.

The markets may benefit from a return of recent upward momentum, which could be restored following a brief three-day pullback.

The upward momentum helped propel stocks to new record highs last week, as traders generally remain optimistic about a potential U.S.-China trade deal.

Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters earlier in the day that the U.S. and China remain in close communication but provided few details about the negotiations.

Gao reiterated the Chinese contention that tariffs must be lowered as part of a phase one trade deal, although a new round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods is currently set to kick in on December 15th.

Nonetheless, overall trading activity may be somewhat subdued ahead of the release of the Labor Department's closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday.

Economists expect employment to increase by 180,000 jobs in November after climbing by 128,000 jobs in October, while the unemployment rate is expected to hold at 3.6 percent.

A day ahead of the release of the monthly jobs report, the Labor Department released a report on Thursday showing an unexpected decrease in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended November 30th.

The report said initial jobless claims slipped to 203,000, a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 213,000. The drop came as a surprise to economists, who had expected jobless claims to inch up to 215,000.

A separate report from the Commerce Department showed the U.S. trade deficit narrowed in the month of October amid a notable decrease in the value of imports.

The Commerce Department said the trade deficit narrowed to $47.2 billion in October from a revised $51.1 billion in September.

Economists had expected the trade deficit to narrow to $48.7 billion from the $52.5 billion originally reported for the previous month.

The narrower trade deficit came as the value of imports tumbled by 1.7 percent to $254.3 billion, while the value of exports edged down by 0.2 percent to $207.1 billion.

Not long after the start of trading, the Commerce Department is scheduled to release a separate report on factory orders in the month of October. Factory orders are expected to rise by 0.3 percent in October after falling by 0.6 percent in September.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index and China's Shanghai Composite Index both ended the day up by 0.7 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets are turning in a mixed performance on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index has climbed by 0.7 percent, the German DAX Index is just below the unchanged line and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is down by 0.3 percent.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are inching up $0.05 to $58.48 a barrel after spiking $2.33 to $58.43 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, after falling $4.20 to $1,480.20 an ounce in the previous session, gold futures are unchanged.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 108.84 yen compared to the 108.86 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.1093 compared to yesterday's $1.1078.

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