U.S. Stocks May Move Modestly Higher In Early Trading

After closing mixed for two straight sessions, stocks may move to the upside in early trading on Thursday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a modestly higher open for the markets, with the Dow futures up by 55 points.

The markets may benefit from recent upward momentum, which has helped lift the Dow and the S&P 500 new record highs amid easing concerns about the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

So-called “window dressing” may also contribute to some strength on Wall Street, as institutional investors look to boost the value of their portfolios going into the end of the year.

Trading activity may remain somewhat subdued, however, as some traders may look to get a head start on New Year’s festivities.

In U.S. economic news, the Labor Department released a report unexpectedly showing a modest drop in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended December 25th.

The report said initial jobless claims dipped to 198,000, a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 206,000.

The slight pullback surprised economists, who had expected jobless claims to inch up to 208,000 from the 205,000 originally reported for the previous week.

Just after the start of trading, MNI Indicators is scheduled to release its report on Chicago-area business activity in the month of December.

The Chicago business barometer is expected to inch up to 62.0 in December from 61.8 in November, with a reading above 50 indicating growth.

After ending Tuesday’s trading on opposite sides of the unchanged line, the major U.S. stock indexes turned in another mixed performance during trading on Wednesday. Despite the choppy trading, the Dow and the S&P 500 reached new record closing highs.

The Dow rose 90.42 points or 0.3 percent to 36,488.63, closing high for the sixth consecutive session. The S&P 500 also inched up 6.71 points or 0.1 percent to 4,793.06, while the Nasdaq climbed well off its worst levels but still closed down 15.51 points or 0.1 percent at 15,766.22.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in another mixed performance during trading on Thursday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index fell by 0.4 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index rose by 0.6 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets have moved modestly higher on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index is just above the unchanged line, the German DAX Index is up by 0.2 percent and the French CAC 40 Index is up by 0.3 percent.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are edging down $0.15 to $76.41 a barrel after climbing $0.58 to $76.56 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, after slipping $5.10 to $1,805.80 an ounce in the previous session, gold futures are falling $5.60 to $1,800.20 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 115.15 yen versus the 114.95 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.1327 compared to yesterday’s $1.1349.

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