Futures flat after last week's gains
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, August 1, 2011. Stocks turned negative after a strong opening on Monday as relief over a last-ditch debt deal in Washington faded after a weak reading on the manufacturing sector. Reuters

U.S. stock index futures signaled early Tuesday that the Dow Jones Industrial Average will open above its recently-set record high, head of the publication of the Labor Department's weekly jobless claims data and the Bureau of Economic Analysis' trade deficit report.

The futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.07 percent, the futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were up 0.10 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were up 0.17 percent.

Ahead of the Friday's February nonfarm payrolls report, the Department of Labor is due to report the initial jobless claims report, which measures the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week, at 8:30 am EDT. Economists forecast initial jobless claims to be 355,000 for the week ending March 2, up from 344,000 in the previous week.

Investors are also expected to focus on the trade balance report to be released before the opening bell. The report, which measures the difference in value between the imported and exported goods and services over the reported period, is expected to show that trade deficit widened to $43 billion in January after narrowing by more than $10 billion to a three-year low of $38.5 billion in December.

In addition, the Department of Labor will also report the revised nonfarm productivity for the fourth quarter. It is expected that fourth quarter productivity growth to be revised up to -1.6 percent from -2.0 percent that the government initially reported.

Meanwhile, market participants are also awaiting the monetary policy decisions from the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of England (BoE), which will hold their policy meetings early Thursday. Investors are optimistic that the central banks will retain soft policy to support the struggling economies.

“Central banks will be in spotlight today. Bank of Japan, as expected, left policies on hold. We expect BoE and ECB to also leave policies unchanged in this month’s meeting, though it will be a close call for BoE and there is also an outside chance that the ECB will cut policy rate,” a note from Credit Agricole said.

The U.S. stock markets advanced Wednesday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average extending its record high as sentiment continued to be supported by better-than-expected economic data. Economic reports on ADP employment and factory orders came in better-than-expected while the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book also continued to show gradual improvement in growth.

Payroll firm ADP Employer Services said that the U.S. private sector added more jobs than expected in February. Companies added 198,000 workers to their payrolls in February, down compared to an upwardly revised 215,000 jobs gain in January but topped Bloomberg’s expectation of 170,000 new jobs. The ADP data came two days before the government's monthly nonfarm payroll report and raised hopes that February employment report would be better than the initial consensus indicated.

European stock markets were trading higher with Germany's DAX30 up 0.10 percent, France's CAC 40 gaining 0.49 percent and London's FTSE 100 advancing 0.13 percent.

Asian stock markets were mixed Thursday as investors opted for caution before monetary decisions from the ECB and BoE, after the Bank of Japan kept policy on hold. The Chinese Shanghai Composite declined 0.98 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng declined 0.03 percent, while the Japanese Nikkei gained 0.30 percent and India’s BSE Sensex advanced 0.16 percent.