Stock market today: Wall Street rises in early trading with new US jobs data on the way

Wall Street pointed to a modestly higher open Thursday ahead of fresh data on the jobs market that could impact the Federal Reserve’s next decision on interest rates.

Futures for the Dow Jones industrials rose 0.2% before the bell, while S&P 500 futures rose 0.3%.

The U.S. releases its weekly jobs report Thursday and on Friday, the closely watched monthly jobs report for March arrives from the Labor Department.

After raising its benchmark lending rate to hits highest level in more than two decades, the Fed had paused hiking its rate at its last five meetings as inflation has retreated significantly from highs of more than 9%.

Officials at the U.S. central bank have indicated that three rate cuts were still possible this year, which would relieve pressure on the economy and boost stocks. But Fed officials say they will do so only if more evidence arrives to show inflation is heading down toward their goal of 2%.

The broader U.S. economy has held up better than anticipated since the Fed started hiking rates in March of 2022 in its bid to cool demand and the labor market. Though there have been some high-profile companies announcing layoffs recently, jobs remain plentiful and the unemployment rate has remained under 4% for 25 months, the longest stretch since the 1960s.

In early trading Thursday, Levi Strauss jumped 12.3% before the bell after the jeans maker beat Wall Street’s first-quarter sales and profit forecasts and raised its 2024 profit guidance.

Also beating analysts’ forecasts was Conagra, the packaged food giant. Shares of the Chicago-based maker of Duncan Hines and Banquet products rose 3.2% in premarket after it posted results Thursday.

Elsewhere, in Europe at midday Britain’s FTSE 100 rose more than 0.4%, while France’s CAC 40 and Germany’s DAX were effectively unchanged.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.8% to 39,773.14. Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.5% to 7,817.30. South Korea’s Kospi added 1.3% to 2,742.00.

Analysts say Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co’s (TSMC) facilities may get quicker-than-expected relief — easing concerns about production halts — after a powerful earthquake struck Wednesday, killing at least nine people. Trading was closed in Taiwan, as well as in China, for a national holiday.

“Market participants took comfort in the weaker-than-expected U.S. services purchasing managers index overnight, which offset the surprise rebound in manufacturing activities earlier in the week and suggest that overall demand may still remain tame for the Federal Reserve’s inflation fight,” said Yeap Jun Rong, market analyst at IG.

Share prices also got a lift from a recent report from Japan’s major labor union Rengo, or Japanese Trade Union Confederation, that wage increases continued to be solid in this year’s negotiations, averaging a rise of more than 5%, the highest in three decades.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude fell 3 cents to $85.40 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, was up 2 cents to $89.37 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar edged up to 151.75 Japanese yen from 151.65 yen. The euro cost $1.0853, up from $1.0837.

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