(RTTNews) - After turning lower over the course of the previous session, stocks may turn in a lackluster performance in early trading on Thursday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a mixed open for the markets, with the Nasdaq futures up by 0.3 percent but the Dow futures down by 0.1 percent.
Trades may be reluctant to make significant moves ahead of the release of the Labor Department's closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday.
Economists currently expect employment to increase by 180,000 jobs in November after rising by 150,000 jobs in October, while the unemployment rate is expected to hold at 3.9 percent.
The jobs report could have a significant impact on the outlook for interest rates ahead of the Federal Reserve's monetary policy meeting next week.
While the Fed is widely expected to leave interest rates unchanged, traders will be looking to the jobs data to provide further evidence the central bank could cut rates as soon as March 2024.
A day ahead of the release of the monthly jobs report, the Labor Department released a report showing a slight uptick in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended December 2nd.
The report said initial jobless claims ticked up to 220,000, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week's revised level of 219,000.
Economist had expected jobless claims to rise to 222,000 from the 218,000 originally reported for the previous week.
After a positive start, stocks gave up their gains and moved along the flat line until around mid-afternoon on Wednesday before drifting lower to end the day's session on a weak note.
The major averages all ended modestly lower. The Dow, which advanced to 36,292.58 in early trading, settled at 36,054.43, losing 70.13 points or 0.2 percent. The S&P 500 ended down 17.84 points or 0.4 percent at 4,549.34, while the Nasdaq closed lower by 83.20 points or 0.6 percent at 14,146.71.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index tumbled by 1.8 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slid by 0.7 percent.
The major European markets have shown more modest moves to the downside on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index has edged down by 0.1 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index are both down by 0.2 percent.
In commodities trading, crude oil futures are rising $0.78 to $70.16 a barrel after plunging $2.94 to $69.38 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, after climbing $11.60 to $2,047.90 an ounce in the previous session, gold futures are inching up $3.50 to $2,051.40 an ounce.
On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 144.86 yen versus the 147.31 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.0785 compared to yesterday's $1.0764.