Stocks may show a lack of direction in early trading on Friday, as traders react to another weak employment report that came roughly in line with expectations. If the major averages manage to hold onto the gains posted in the three previous sessions, they will close higher for the fourth straight week.
The Labor Department said that non-farm payroll employment fell by 663,000 jobs in March following an unrevised decrease of 651,000 jobs in February. The drop in jobs came roughly in line with economists' expectations of a decrease of 658,000 levels.
With the continued decrease in jobs, the unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent in March from 8.1 percent in the previous month, in line with expectations. With the increase, the unemployment rate rose to its highest level since November of 1983.
While the report looks backward at job losses already posted, traders still don't want to see big growth in the number of people out of work because it is likely to crimp consumer spending and the economy's attempts to recover.
Later in the morning, trading could be impacted by the release of the Institute for Supply Management's report on activity in the service sector. The index of activity in the sector is expected to edge up to 42.0 in March from 41.6 in February.
Additionally, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will speak at the Richmond Fed's Credit Markets Symposium in Charlotte, NC at about noon ET.
In other news, after the G20 summit on Thursday, leaders of industrial and developing nations promised to contribute $1.1 trillion to the International Monetary Fund and other development bodies to lend to struggling countries reeling from the global economic turmoil.
They also pledged new efforts to clean up balance sheets in the banking sector, shut down tax havens, and extend financial regulations.
On the corporate front, Research In Motion Ltd. (RIMM) is indicating a significantly higher open after the company reported fourth quarter earnings that beat expectations and provided some better-than-anticipated guidance for the upcoming quarter.
Stocks showed a strong upward move during trading on Thursday, as investors reacted well to mixed economic news and liked what they heard from the G-20 summit. The continued advance also reflected some optimism about a stabilization in the economy.
During the session, the Dow climbed above the 8,000 level for the first time since February 10th, although it gave back some ground in late day trading. While the blue chip index closed below that key level, it still ended the day up more than 215 points.
Crude oil futures are receding $0.41 to $52.23 a barrel after rallying $4.25 to $52.64 a barrel in Thursday's session. Meanwhile, gold futures are falling $3.90 to $905 an ounce. In the previous session, gold fell $18.80 to $908.90 an ounce.
On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 99.87 yen compared to the 99.5295 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Thursday. At the same time, the greenback is currently valued at $1.341 versus a euro.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region closed mostly higher, adding to the strong gains posted in the previous session. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed up 0.3 percent, although well off its best level of the day.
The major European markets are currently trading on a mixed note on Friday, with the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index advancing 0.1 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is down 0.2 percent.
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