After days of rangebound trading in the U.S. stock markets, futures were up on Thursday suggesting a higher open for markets, ahead of the release of U.S. jobless claims data, the House Price Index and a manufacturing activity survey from Markit.
Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.30 percent, while futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were up 0.38 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were up 0.57 percent.
The much awaited minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting, released on Wednesday, disappointed investors who were expecting to find significant clues about the timing of the winding down of the central bank's $85 billion-a-month asset-purchase program.
The minutes exposed a lack of consensus among Fed officials on the timeframe for withdrawing the stimulus policy, as some members felt that the U.S. economy could handle a tapering of the bond-buying program as early as September while other members suggested putting off the tapering of the unconventional quantitative easing program until the end of the year.
"The minutes gave a slightly more cautious take on the outlook, which could give the Fed more wiggle room to delay the start of tapering from the September date consensus now expects," Robert Wood, chief UK economist at Berenberg, told MarketWatch.
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The initial jobless claims report, which measures the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week, is scheduled to be released by the Department of Labor at 8:30 a.m. EDT. Economists predict that claims are likely to increase to 322,000 for the week ended Aug. 17, up from 320,000 in the previous week.
Meanwhile, economists expect continuing jobless claims data, which measure the number of unemployed individuals who qualify for benefits under unemployment insurance, to decrease marginally to 2.96 million from the 2.969 million recorded in the previous week.
Investors also will be turning their attention to the publication of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, or FHFA’s, House Price Index at 9 a.m. EDT. The index provides the average change of house prices across the country for a certain area, using data provided by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The index is expected to drop to 0.6 percent in July, from the 0.7 percent recorded in the previous month.
In addition, the manufacturing PMI from Markit, which measures the activity level of purchasing managers in the manufacturing sector in the U.S., is due to be released at 8.00 a.m. EDT. Analysts expect the gauge to show a reading of 54 in August, up from 53.7 in July.
In Europe, markets traded significantly higher on Thursday, as upbeat flash manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, or PMI data from major euro zone countries and China released earlier in the day, cheered financial markets.
The euro zone’s manufacturing PMI, published by Markit, expanded to 51.3 in August, from 50.3 in July, and better than analysts’ estimate of a reading of 50.8. Germany’s Markit flash manufacturing PMI in August rose to 52 points, from 50.7 in the previous month, while France’s flash manufacturing PMI showed an easing off in contraction to 49.7, compared to 49.8 posted in the earlier month.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index was trading up 0.84 percent, London’s FTSE 100 was up 0.80 percent, Germany's DAX-30 was up 1.06 percent and France's CAC-40 was trading up 0.97 percent.
In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei ended down 0.44 percent, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 closed down 0.48 percent and South Korea’s KOSPI Composite index fell 0.98 percent.
China’s manufacturing sector expanded to a four-month high in August, after contracting for three straight months, HSBC's flash PMI, released on Thursday, showed. The Shanghai Composite index ended down 0.28 percent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index closed up 0.36 percent.
In India, the benchmark BSE Sensex ended up 2.27 percent for the first time in four sessions. The Indian rupee hit a fresh record low of 65.56 against the dollar on Thursday, and by late afternoon, the domestic currency had recovered marginally to trade at 64.85.