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

After moving sharply lower 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 S&P 500 futures down by just 1 point.

Traders may be reluctant to make significant moves amid uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets following recent volatility.

Stocks started off the week on a strong note on Monday, but pulled back sharply on Tuesday and Wednesday amid concerns about the outlook for monetary policy.

With the Federal Reserve’s next monetary policy meeting almost a month away, traders are likely to keep a close eye on the latest economic data for clues about how aggressive the central bank will be.

The Labor Department released a report this morning showing a modest decrease by first-time claims for unemployment benefits in the week ended April 2nd.

The report showed initial jobless claims dipped to 166,000, a decrease of 5,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 171,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to edge down to 200,000 from the 202,000 originally reported for the previous week.

The economic calendar is relatively quiet for the rest of this week but will pick up next week with the release of reports on consumer and producer price inflation, retail sales and industrial production.

Stocks moved mostly lower during trading on Wednesday, extending the significant downward move seen in Tuesday’s session. The major averages all moved to the downside, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq showing another particularly steep drop.

After tumbling by 2.3 percent during trading on Tuesday, the Nasdaq plunged 315.35 points or 2.2 percent to 13,888.82. The S&P 500 also slumped 43.97 points or 1 percent to 4,481.15, while the narrower Dow posted a more modest loss, falling 144.67 points or 0.4 percent to 34,496.51.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved notably lower during trading on Thursday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index tumbled by 1.7 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index dove by 1.4 percent.

Meanwhile, European stocks have moved mostly higher on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index has bucked the uptrend and edged down by 0.1 percent, the German DAX Index is up by 0.5 percent and the French CAC 40 Index is up by 0.7 percent.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are jumping $1.61 to $97.84 a barrel after plunging $5.73 to $96.23 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, after dipping $4.40 to $1,923.10 an ounce in the previous session, gold futures are climbing $8.20 to $1,931.20 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 123.91 yen versus the 123.80 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.0911 compared to yesterday’s $1.0896.

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