U.S. stock index futures were flat Thursday, with tech stocks leading the Nasdaq lower than other indexes ahead of the highly anticipated Friday’s job report. Before the market opened, futures on the S&P 500 were just above the flatline, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was little changed. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite dipped down to 0.2%. “Volumes are expected to remain muted as we enter the holiday weekend,” the U.S. market intelligence team at JPMorgan said in a note. The stock and bond markets will both close for Good Friday on April 7. Government bonds yields were mixed. The yield on the 10-year note was unchanged, while rate-sensitive two-year note yields slid to 3.73% Thursday morning. On the commodities front, gold futures are shining right now after the metal managed to break the $2,000-per-ounce barrier on the back of weak US economic data, as well as hopes that the Fed will raise rates more slowly. Crude oil continues to hover around $80 a barrel, little changed after big gains to start the week. Meanwhile, investors will be focused on the economic reading of applications for US unemployment benefits out Thursday morning. This comes after a report Wednesday from the private payroll firm ADP showed that employers added 145,000 jobs in March as the labor market showed signs of slowing from its strong pace so far this year. The figure was well below the consensus estimates of 210,000 and lower than the revised 261,000 jobs gained in February. But market strategists say it's unclear if ADP’s results foreshadow a softer nonfarm payrolls report Friday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect Friday's jobs report to show 240,000 jobs created last month. This would be significantly lower than the average job gains of 343,000 over the last six months. In additional jobs data earlier this week, the government's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) found that openings receded more than expected to 9.931 million, marking the first time the number dropped below 10 million since May 2021. The gradual slowing in the labor market may be encouraging for policymakers. Some investors are maintaining “a fairly dovish path” from the Fed over the coming months. “For instance, at the next meeting in May, the chances of a rate hike according to futures remained at 47%, after having been as high as 70% earlier in the week,” Jim Reid and colleagues at Deutsche Bank wrote in note to clients. Meanwhile, Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester said on Wednesday she predicts rates will need to move higher. "Precisely how much higher the federal funds rate will need to go from here and for how long policy will need to remain restrictive will depend on how much inflation and inflation expectations are moving down," Mester said in a speech at the Money Marketeers of New York University. In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 lost 1.22% to 27,472 points, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong tumbled 0.23% to 20,227. The Shanghai Composite slipped 0.1% to 3,309 points.
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