The U.S. stock index futures point to a higher open Friday ahead of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' nonfarm payrolls and unemployment reports.
The futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.36 percent, the futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were up 0.33 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were up 0.27 percent.
Investors are eagerly waiting for the government's monthly nonfarm payrolls report, which is the most closely watched economic data pertaining to the jobs market and a key gauge of the direction and pace of economic recovery.
The nonfarm payrolls report, which measures the change in the number of people employed during the previous month, excluding the farming industry, is due to be released at 8:30 a.m. EDT. Economists expect nonfarm payrolls to show a gain of 180,000 jobs last month, up from 157,000 jobs gain in January while the unemployment rate is expected to marginally decline to 7.8 percent from 7.9 percent in January.
The much-awaited U.S. jobs report follows data on private sector hiring, weekly jobless claims, ISM manufacturing and services reports that suggest a pick-up in the labor market recovery and the pace of economic growth.
Payroll firm ADP Employer Services said Wednesday that the U.S. private sector added a better-than-expected 198,000 jobs in February, down compared to an upwardly revised 215,000 jobs gain in January, but topped Bloomberg’s expectation of 170,000 new jobs while weekly jobless claims fell last week to a seasonally adjusted 340,000.
Meanwhile, recent data released by the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) showed that the U.S. factory activity expanded for the third consecutive month and services industry expanded at the fastest pace in a year in February. The ISM manufacturing employment index declined to 52.6 but was still indicative of positive expansion and the labour component of ISM services index declined 0.3 percentage points in February but held at a very strong reading of 57.2.
“We stand above the current consensus which looks for a 165,000 gain, but we believe the employment indicators released to date point to an overall positive picture in the labor market for February,” a note from Credit Agricole said.
The U.S. stock markets advanced Wednesday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average extending its record high as sentiment continued to be supported by better-than-expected economic data. Data released by the Department of Labor showed that jobless claims, which measure the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week, unexpectedly fell 340,000 in the week ending Mar.2 while analysts’ expected claims to rise to 353,000 from a revised 347,000 in the previous week.
European stock markets were trading higher with Germany's DAX30 up 0.69 percent, France's CAC 40 gaining 0.76 percent and London's FTSE 100 advancing 0.57 percent.
Asian stock markets mostly ended with gains Friday after China posted an unexpected trade surplus for the month of February. The Japanese Nikkei climbed 2.64 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng surged 1.41 percent and India’s BSE Sensex gained 1.17 percent, while the Chinese Shanghai Composite declined 0.24 percent.
Official data released Friday showed that China managed a trade surplus last month, beating forecasts of a deficit due to the seasonal issues pertaining to the Chinese New Year holidays. China's trade surplus narrowed to $15.25 billion in February from January's $29.15 billion surplus but topped analysts’ estimate of a $16 billion trade deficit.
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