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Market Snapshot: U.S. stock futures mostly lower ahead of jobless claims, GDP update

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Stock-index futures were mostly a shade lower Thursday as investors await weekly data on jobless benefit claims as well as an updated look at first-quarter gross U.S. domestic product and other economic data.

What are major benchmarks doing?
  • Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average
    YM00,
    +0.22%

    were up 6 points, or less than 0.1%, at 34,286.
  • S&P 500 futures
    ES00,
    -0.08%

    fell 7.35 points, or 0.2%, to 4,185.75.,
  • Nasdaq-100 futures
    NQ00,
    -0.36%

    shed 47 points, or 0.3%, to trade at 13,653.25.

On Wednesday, stocks essentially fought to a draw in another low-volume session, with the Dow
DJIA,
+0.03%

eking out a gain of 10.59 points, or less than 0.1%, while the S&P 500
SPX,
+0.19%

rose 0.2%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite
COMP,
+0.59%

outpaced its peers, finishing 0.6% higher.

What’s driving the market?

Stocks are stuck in a holding pattern, with investors focused on the Federal Reserve’s slowly shifting rhetoric around when it will begin discussions on pulling back on bond purchases.

On Wednesday, Randal Quarles, the Fed’s vice chairman for supervision, said it would soon be time for Fed officials to begin debating slowing the central bank’s bond purchases, if the economy continues to improve at its current pace. Federal Reserve Vice Chair Richard Clarida also said U.S. central bank officials may be able to begin discussing the appropriate timing of scaling back their bond-buying program at upcoming policy meetings,

Still, long-term Treasury yields remain well below their March peaks “and there’s no sense of panic at all in bond markets about a soon-to-have taper debate at the Fed,” said Raffi Boyadjian, senior investment analyst at XM, in a note.

Trading activity is likely to remain subdued heading into a three-day weekend. U.S. markets will be closed Monday for the Memorial Day holiday.

The S&P 500 index is largely unchanged over the past month, with value indexes substantially outpacing growth, and large-cap stocks beating small-caps, noted Mark Hackett, chief of investment research at Nationwide. Energy, financials and materials have been top performers, while consumer discretionary, technology and utilities are negative.

“As the cycle continues to mature, quality companies on the growth and value spectrum that have strong competitive positions, healthy balance sheets and multiple levers for growth should emerge as leaders, while the expensive ‘story stocks’ on the growth side and deep value could struggle,” he said.

Meme stocks GameStop Corp.
GME,
+15.82%

and AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.
AMC,
+19.20%

continued to steal the spotlight, with shares soaring for a third day Wednesday as retail traders piled into what is now another squeeze on hedge funds and other institutional investors shorting the stock. GameStop shares were down 2.9% in premarket trade, while AMC fell 5%.

Weekly data on U.S. jobless benefit claims is due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern, with applications for first time unemployment benefits in the week ended May 22 expected to drop to 425,000 from 444,000 a week earlier.

At the same time, a revised look at first-quarter gross domestic product is expected to show the economy grew at an annualized pace of 6.6%. April durable goods orders, also due at 8:30 a.m., are expected to rise 0.9%.

An April pending home-sales index scheduled for 10 a.m. is expected to slow to 1% after a 1.9% March reading.

Which companies are in focus?

: Airbus ramps up A320 jet production as aerospace giant signals recovery

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