Stock futures trade cautiously ahead of jobless claims

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Key Advisors Group LLC co-owner Eddie Ghabour suggests investors reposition their portfolios to be less volatile.

U.S. equity futures traded modestly higher Thursday morning after Wall Street hit a high and new daily U.S. coronavirus cases surged to a record.

The major futures indexes suggest a gain of 0.1% when the opening bell rings.

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Wall Street gained Wednesday for its 70th record high of 2021, but optimism was tempered by data showing new U.S. virus cases have risen to an average of 265,000 per day, driven largely by the more contagious omicron variant.

On Thursday, traders will examine reports on the labor market and regional manufacturing, the last economic data points of the year.

The Labor Department is out with its tally of new claims for unemployment benefits for last week. Expectations are for 208,000, up 3,000 from the previous week and not far above the 52-year low of 188,000 two weeks ago. Continuing claims, which track the total number of unemployed workers collecting benefits, are anticipated to edge up 9,000 to 1.868 million.

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The Institute for Supply Management is out with its Chicago Purchasing Managers’ index for December. The closely watched gauge of Midwest business activity is anticipated to inch up to 62.0, up from a 9-month low of 61.8 in November amid a slowdown in new orders. A reading of 50 is the dividing line between an expanding and contracting manufacturing sector.

In Europe, London's FTSE was off 0.2%, Germany's DAX was little changed and France's CAC slipped less than 0.1%.

In Asia, he Nikkei 225 in Tokyo shed 0.4%, finishing the year with a gain of 4.9%.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong advanced 0.1% and China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.6%.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
I:DJIDOW JONES AVERAGES36488.63+90.42+0.25%
SP500S&P 5004793.06+6.71+0.14%
I:COMPNASDAQ COMPOSITE INDEX15766.216275-15.51-0.10%

Wall Street's benchmark S&P 500 index rose 0.1% to 4,793.06. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.2% to 36,488.63. The Nasdaq composite slipped 0.1% to 15,766.22.

The S&P 500 is on track for a gain of more than 27% in 2021. The benchmark, which also set records on Monday and on Dec. 23, hit more new highs in 2021 than in any year since the 77 in 1954. 

Samsung denied a media report that said the South Korean firm was in talks to buy drugmaker Biogen, sending that company's shares 9.5% higher.

Trading was lighter as investors closed out positions for the year. Fewer than 3 billion shares traded hands on the New York Stock Exchange compared with a typical daily average of 4.5 billion.

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In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude slipped 11 cents to $76.46 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract advanced 58 cents to $76.56 on Wednesday. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, lost 6 cents to $79.17 per barrel in London. It closed 29 cents higher the previous session at $79.23.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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