Wall Street futures edged up on Thursday as investors looked to the weekly jobless claims filings later in the day for further clues on the labor market recovery that plays a key role in the Federal Reserve’s expected plans to pull back on easy money policies that have buoyed markets.
At 7:13 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 53 points, or 0.15 percent, S&P 500 e-minis were up 8 points, or 0.18 percent, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 35.5 points, or 0.23 percent.
The S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq have consistently hit record highs over the past few weeks as a solid corporate earnings season underpinned confidence even as data showed some cooling in the U.S. economic recovery.
Some strategists believe those highs could be challenged as the rebound in corporate profits loses its edge and pressure builds on the Fed to taper its massive bond-buying program of around $120 billion in monthly Treasury and mortgage securities.
Nick Reece, portfolio manager at Merk Investments, told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that, in his view, there’s a growing case for a pullback in the benchmark S&P 500.
“I continue to think the market is due for a short-term correction or sideways consolidation,” he said. “The market is trading at the top end of the bull market trend channel. And there hasn’t been a 10 percent correction since the March 2020 lows—it’s always worth being mentally prepared for one.”
“Of course, a 10 percent correction might only start 10 percent higher from here, so trying to time it is a fool’s errand in my view,” he added.
Investors have been closely watching moves and statements by Fed officials for clues when the central bank will withdraw some of its crisis support measures for the economy, which have played a role in pushing stock indexes to all-time highs.
Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell last week struck a largely dovish tone at the annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, saying the central bank would continue buying bonds at the current pace until “we see substantial further progress” towards the Fed’s dual goals of maximum employment and price stability.
Powell acknowledged a sharp run-up in inflation but argued that it would be transitory, while noting incoming data showing upwards price pressures were starting to moderate. He said that the “substantial further progress” test had been met for inflation and that there had been “clear progress” towards the maximum employment objective but struck a cautionary tone around labor market recovery in the face of the spread of the Delta variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
“The intervening month has brought more progress in the form of a strong employment report for July, but also the further spread of the Delta variant. We will be carefully assessing incoming data and the evolving risks. Even after our asset purchases end, our elevated holdings of longer-term securities will continue to support accommodative financial conditions,” Powell said.
On Thursday, investors are focused on the Labor Department’s weekly unemployment claims data, a proxy for layoffs. Looming large is Friday’s so-called nonfarm payrolls data, with the closely watched jobs report setting the stage for deliberations around labor market health at the Fed’s policy meeting later in the month.
Last week, the number of American workers filing for unemployment edged up to 353,000 for the week ending Aug. 21, a rise of 4,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 349,000.
Weekly claims surged to a record high of 6.2 million in April 2020, when lockdowns amid the COVID-19 outbreak shook the economy. For the most part, they’ve fallen steadily since then, remaining relatively flat at the mid-to-high 300,000 range since June, a historically elevated level. Before the pandemic, weekly unemployment filings averaged around 220,000.
Reuters contributed to this report.