U.S. stock index futures point to a higher open on the first day of August, a day after the U.S. Federal Reserve gave a fresh lease of life to its stimulus program and an unexpected jump in the preliminary reading of U.S. GDP growth, and data, released on Thursday, which show a pick-up in manufacturing activity in the European Union.
However, on Thursday, investors also will be guided by U.S. jobless claims data, manufacturing activity surveys from Markit and ISM, and interest rate decisions from the Bank of England and the European Central Bank.
Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.52 percent, while futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were up 0.74 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were up 0.45 percent.
The Institute for Supply Management, or ISM’s, Purchasing Managers’ Index, or PMI, for the month of July will be released at 10 a.m. EDT. Analysts expect the manufacturing PMI, which measures the relative level of business conditions, including employment, production, new orders, prices, supplier deliveries and inventories -- to expand to 52 in July from 50.9 in June. A level above 50 represents an expansion in the industry.
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 polled by Bloomberg predict that claims are likely to increase to 345,000 for the week ended July 27, up from 343,000 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 2.994 million from the 2.997 million recorded in the previous week.
Investors also await manufacturing PMI from Markit, which measures the activity level of purchasing managers in the manufacturing sector in the U.S., due to be released at 8.00 a.m. EDT. Analysts expect the gauge to show a reading of 53.1 in July, marginally down from 53.2 in June.
On the earnings front, companies such as Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) and Barrick Gold Corporation (USA) (NYSE:ABX) will report quarterly earnings before market hours on Thursday.
On Wednesday, U.S. stocks traded higher, following an absence of hints from the Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC, about winding down its asset-purchase program by September, despite unexpectedly upbeat GDP growth data for the second quarter. The first estimate of second-quarter GDP, released on Wednesday, showed that the U.S. economy grew at a 1.7 percent annual rate up from the first quarter's 1.1 percent growth.
However, markets reversed gains later to end on a mixed note on continuing concerns that the Fed could soon start winding down its $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program.
“They’re reiterating their expectations that economic growth is going to pick up,” Jeffrey Rosenberg, chief investment strategist for fixed income at Blackrock Inc. told Bloomberg News. “Clearly the Fed is trying to get out of the business of quantitative easing,” he said, referring to asset purchases.
The Dow Jones ended Wednesday down 0.1 percent after gaining more than 0.7 percent to a new intraday record high. The S&P 500 closed flat, and the Nasdaq gained 0.3 percent.
Earlier on Thursday, a benchmark survey of factory output for the euro zone in July showed signs of respite from a prolonged contraction, as the rate of contraction in manufacturing activity and new orders eased in all euro zone economies except Spain.
The 17-nation euro zone’s manufacturing PMI, published by Markit, expanded to 50.3 -- a two-year high in July from June’s 50.1 -- better than the earlier flash reading of 50.1.
“Eurozone manufacturing made a positive start to the third quarter, with welcome signs of growth returning to the sector. The PMI rose to a two-year high, as rising export demand and stabilizing domestic markets took growth of new orders and output to rates, albeit still modest, last scaled in mid-2011,” Rob Dobson, a senior economist at Markit, said in a release.
European markets traded higher on Thursday after better-than expected manufacturing PMI data from the euro zone and China's official PMI buoyed investor sentiments.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index traded up 0.88 percent, London’s FTSE 100 was up 0.42 percent, Germany's DAX-30 was up 1.3 percent and France's CAC-40 was trading down 0.43 percent.
In Asia, most markets traded substantially higher on Thursday following the Fed’s decision to continue its asset-purchase program and the official Chinese PMI data showed signs of a pick-up in factory activity in that country.
The Shanghai Composite index ended up 1.77 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index gained 0.94 percent, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 ended up 0.19 percent. Japan’s Nikkei rallied 2.47 percent and South Korea’s KOSPI Composite index closed up 0.35 percent.
In India, the BSE Sensex was trading down 0.20 percent in late-afternoon trade, after the HSBC-Markit PMI for the month of July, released on Thursday, showed factory output had declined to 50.1 in July from 50.3 in June, underlining a continuing slowdown in Asia's third-largest economy.