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

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After ending the previous session sharply higher, 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 down by just 5 points.

Traders may be reluctant to make significant moves amid uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets following the volatility seen over the past few sessions.

The rally seen during trading on Wednesday came following the pullback seen earlier in the week, which dragged the Dow and the S&P 500 well off last Friday's record highs.

The steady advance by the markets throughout most of the past year has led to some concerns about stock valuations amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Stocks have largely refrained from an extended pullback, however, as traders seem wary of selling stocks and missing out on further upside.

Some analysts have warned that a market correction is overdue and suggested a continued advance could exacerbate the pullback.

Positive sentiment may be generated in reaction to a report from the Labor Department unexpectedly showing a continued decline in initial jobless claims in the week ended April 17.

The report said initial jobless claims fell to 547,000, a decrease of 39,000 from the previous week's revised level of 586,000.

The continued drop came as a surprise to economists, who had expected jobless claims to rebound to 617,000 from the 576,000 originally reported for the previous month.

With the unexpected decrease, jobless claims slid to their lowest level since hitting 256,000 in the week ended March 14, 2020.

Shortly after the start of trading, the National Association of Realtors is scheduled to release its report on existing home sales in the month of March.

Economists expect existing home sales to dip by 0.5 percent to an annual rate of 6.19 million in March after plunging by 6.6 percent to a rate of 6.22 million in February.

The Conference Board is also due to release its report on leading economic indicators in the month of March. The leading economic index is expected to climb by 0.6 percent.

Following the pullback seen earlier in the week, stocks showed a strong move back to the upside during trading on Wednesday. The major averages saw initial weakness but climbed firmly into positive territory as the day progressed.

The major averages saw further upside going into the close, ending the session near their best levels of the day. The Dow jumped 316.01 points or 0.9 percent to 34,137.31, the Nasdaq surged up 163.95 points or 1.2 percent to 13,950.22 and the S&P 500 advanced 38.48 points or 0.9 percent to 4,173.42.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index spiked by 2.4 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose by 0.5 percent.

The major European markets have also moved to the upside on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index has risen by 0.3 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index are up by 0.6 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are inching up $0.15 to $61.50 a barrel after slumping $1.32 to $61.35 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, after climbing $14.70 to $1,793.10 an ounce in the previous session, gold futures are falling $8.10 to $1,785 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 108.11 yen versus the 108.08 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.2048 compared to yesterday's $1.2035.

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