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Futures Pointing To Modestly Lower Open On Wall Street

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After moving moderately higher over the course of the previous session, stocks may give back some ground in early trading on Thursday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a modestly lower open for the markets, with the Dow futures down by 42 points.

Lingering uncertainty about a U.S.-China trade deal may weigh on the markets after a report from Reuters said President Donald Trump is expected to meet with top trade advisers today to discuss current plans to raise tariffs on $160 billion worth of Chinese goods on December 15th.

Reuters said officials circulated talking points ahead of the meeting downplaying the repercussions the new tariffs would have on the U.S. economy.

Three sources familiar with the plans told Reuters the senior trade advisers are expected to present divergent views during the high-stakes meeting, with the final decision up to Trump.

Reports earlier this week suggested the U.S. would likely delay imposing the new tariffs to avoid agitating China amid an ongoing negotiations toward a phase one trade deal.

Negative sentiment may also be generated in reaction to a report from the Labor Department showing first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits jumped by much more than expected in the week ended December 7th.

The report said initial jobless claims surged up to 252,000, an increase of 49,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 203,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to edge up to 213,000.

With the much bigger than expected increase, jobless claims reached their highest level since hitting 257,000 in September of 2017.

A separate Labor Department report showed U.S. producer prices came in unchanged in the month of November, as higher prices for goods offset lower prices for services.

The Labor Department said its producer price index for final demand was flat in November after climbing by 0.4 percent in October. Economists had expected prices to rise by 0.2 percent.

Excluding increases in food and energy prices, core producer prices dipped by 0.2 percent in November after rising by 0.3 percent in October. Core prices had been expected to inch up by 0.2 percent.

Stocks showed a lack of direction throughout much of the trading session on Wednesday but saw a positive reaction to the Federal Reserve's latest monetary policy announcement. Buying interest remained somewhat subdued, however, limiting the upside for the major averages.

The major averages managed to end the session modestly higher. The Dow crept up 29.58 points or 0.1 percent to 27,911.30, the Nasdaq climbed 37.87 points or 0.4 percent to 8,654.05 and the S&P 500 rose 9.11 point or 0.3 percent to 3,141.63.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index inched up by 0.1 percent, while China's Shanghai Composite Index jumped by 0.3 percent.

The major European markets have also turned mixed on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index has risen by 0.4 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index are both down by 0.1 percent.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are rising $0.36 to $64.08 a barrel after sliding $0.48 to $58.76 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, after climbing $6.90 to $1,475 an ounce in the previous session, gold futures are jumping $12.40 to $1,487.40 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 108.58 yen compared to the 108.56 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.1139 compared to yesterday's $1.1130.

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