U.S. Stocks May Lack Direction Amid Shortened Session

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With trading resuming following the Thanksgiving Day holiday on Thursday, stocks may show a lack of direction in early trading on Friday.

The major index futures are currently pointing to a mixed open for the markets, with the S&P 500 futures up by 0.1 percent and the Nasdaq futures down by 0.1 percent.

Many traders are likely to remain away from their desks following yesterday's holiday, contributing to below average trading activity.

An early close for the markets at 1 pm ET along with a lack of major U.S. economic data is also likely to lead to subdued trading.

Nonetheless, stocks may still benefit from recent upward momentum, which has the major averages on pace for a solid week on optimism about slower interest rate hikes.

The minutes of the latest Federal Reserve meeting, released on Wednesday, provided further evidence the central bank is considering slowing the pace of its rate hikes as soon as next month.

The minutes said a "substantial majority" of meeting participants judged that a slowing in the pace of rate hikes would likely "soon be appropriate."

A slower pace of rate hikes would better allow the Fed to assess progress toward its goals of maximum employment and price stability, the minutes said.

However, the Fed also said some participants felt the central bank will need to raise rates higher than previously expected in order to attain a sufficiently restrictive stance to bring inflation down.

Stocks fluctuated over the course of the trading session on Wednesday before eventually closing mostly higher. The major averages added to the strong gains posted on Tuesday, with the Dow reaching a seven-month closing high.

The major averages all finished the day in positive territory, led by the tech-heavy Nasdaq. While the Nasdaq jumped 110.91 points or 1.0 percent to 11,285.32, the S&P 500 climbed 23.68 points or 0.6 percent to 4,027.26 and the Dow rose 95.96 points or 0.3 percent to 34,194.06.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Friday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index rose by 0.4 percent, while China's Shanghai Composite Index fell by 0.4 percent.

The major European markets have also turned mixed on the day. While the German DAX Index is down by 0.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index is up by 0.1 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is up by 0.2 percent.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are jumping $1.34 to $79.28 a barrel after plunging $3.01 to $77.94 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, after rising $5.70 to $1,745.60 an ounce in the previous session, gold futures are inching up $4.30 to $1,749.90 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 139.35 yen versus the 138.54 yen it fetched on Thursday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.0366 compared to yesterday's $1.0410.

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