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

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After ending the previous session notably 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 6 points.

Traders may take a breather following recent volatility on Wall Street, with the upward move seen over the past few sessions largely offsetting the pullback seen last week.

Uncertainty about Brexit may keep traders on the sidelines, with members of parliament due to vote later today on delaying Brexit after they rejected the idea of leaving the European Union without a deal.

Nonetheless, renewed concerns about a potential trade deal between the U.S. and China may weigh on the markets after a report from Bloomberg said a meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping has been pushed back.

Citing three people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg said the meeting to sign an agreement to end the U.S.-China trade war won't occur this month and is more likely to happen in April at the earliest.

The report from Bloomberg comes after Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he is in "no rush" to complete a trade deal with China.

On the U.S. economic front, the Labor Department released a report showing first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits increased by more than expected in the week ended March 9th.

The report said initial jobless claims rose to 229,000, an increase of 6,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 223,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to edge up to 225,000.

A separate report released by the Labor Department showed U.S. import and export prices both rose by more than anticipated in the month of February.

The Labor Department said import prices climbed by 0.6 percent in February after inching up by a revised 0.1 percent in January.

Economists had expected import prices to rise by 0.3 percent compared to the 0.5 percent drop originally reported for the previous month.

The report said export prices also increased by 0.6 percent in February after falling by a revised 0.5 percent in January.

Export prices had been expected to tick up by 0.1 percent compared to the 0.6 percent decrease originally reported for the previous month.

Shortly after the start of trading, the Commerce Department is scheduled to release its report on new home sales in the month of January.

New home sales are expected to slip to an annual rate of 620,000 in January after climbing to a rate of 621,000 in December.

Stocks fluctuated late in the session but managed to remain firmly positive throughout most of the trading day on Wednesday. With the upward move, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 ended the session at their best closing levels in five and four months, respectively.

The major averages all moved to the upside on the day after ending Tuesday's trading mixed. The Dow rose 148.23 points or 0.6 percent to 25,702.89, the Nasdaq advanced 52.37 points or 0.7 percent to 7,643.41 and the S&P 500 climbed 19.40 points or 0.7 percent to 2,810.92.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index closed marginally lower, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index edged up by 0.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets have all moved to the upside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index has advanced by 0.6 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index are up by 0.5 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are rising $0.35 to $58.61 a barrel after jumping $1.39 to $58.26 a barrel a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, an ounce of gold is trading at $1,298.40, down $10.90 compared to the previous session's close of $1,309.30. On Wednesday, gold surged up $11.20.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 111.65 yen compared to the 111.17 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.1306 compared to yesterday's $1.1327.

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