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

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After moving sharply higher 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 just 2 points.

Traders may be reluctant to make significant moves following the volatility seen over the past few days, which saw the major averages plunge on Monday only to rebound strongly on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The advance seen over the past two days more than offset the sell-off to start the week, although the major averages remain below the record closing highs set last Monday.

The futures were pointing to a slightly higher open earlier this morning but pulled back near unchanged after the Labor Department released a report showing an unexpected increase in initial jobless claims in the week ended July 17th.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims climbed to 419,000, an increase of 51,000 from the previous week's revised level of 368,000.

The rebound surprised economists, who had expected jobless claims to edge down to 350,000 from the 360,000 originally reported for the previous week.

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 June. Existing home sales are expected to jump by 1.7 percent to an annual rate of 5.90 million in June.

The Conference Board is also due to release its report on leading economic indicators in the month of June. The leading economic index is expected to increase by 1.0 percent.

Stocks showed a strong move to the upside over the course of the trading day on Wednesday, extending the substantial rebound seen on Tuesday. With the continued upward move, the major averages more than offset the sell-off on Monday.

The major averages reached new highs for the session going into the close of trading. The Dow climbed 286.01 points or 0.8 percent to 34,798.00, the Nasdaq advanced 133.08 points or 0.9 percent to 14,631.95 and the S&P 500 rose 35.63 points or 0.8 percent to 4,358.69.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index surged up by 1.8 percent.

European stocks are also mostly positive on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is nearly unchanged, the French CAC 40 Index is up by 0.6 percent and the German DAX Index is up by 0.9 percent.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are rising $0.21 to $70.51 a barrel after spiking $3.10 to $70.30 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, after falling $8 to $1,803.40 an ounce in the previous session, gold futures are edging down $0.60 to $1,802.80 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 110.08 yen versus the 110.29 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.1793 compared to yesterday's $1.1794.

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