NEW YORK — Stock futures edged higher today, though caution remains ahead of two key jobs reports over the next two days.
Analysts say unemployment remains the biggest hurdle to a stronger recovery, and traders avoided any big moves before the Labor Department’s two reports. The economy continues to grow, but the pace of the rebound has slowed in recent months. That’s because consumers have scaled back spending and started saving more as unemployment remains high and employers continue to avoid significant hiring.
Retailers are reporting monthly sales figures throughout the morning. Signs of spending growth could indicate confidence is starting to creep back in among shoppers.
The Labor Department is expected to report today that initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by just 2,000 last week to 455,000, according to economists polled by Thomson Reuters. It would be the second straight weekly decline, but claims are still too high to indicate broad hiring. Claims have hovered around 450,000 throughout the year, meaning that job cuts aren’t prevalent like during the recession, but hiring hasn’t picked up either.
The report is due out at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT).
The weekly claims data has become one of the more important economic readings each week because of how dependent growth is on new jobs. But unless the report is vastly different from expectations, it might have little effect Thursday because of the monthly report on employment is being released Friday.
The monthly report is expected to show private employers hired 90,000 workers in July, a slight increase from the 83,000 hired in June. But because of government layoffs tied to cutting temporary census jobs, the unemployment rate is expected to rise to 9.6 percent from 9.5 percent.
Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 25, or 0.2 percent, to 10,660. Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures rose 2.60, or 0.2 percent, to 1,127.20, while Nasdaq 100 index futures rose 5.75, or 0.3 percent, to 1,911.00.
The weekly and monthly reports over the next two days come after private payroll company ADP said yesterday that private employers hired 42,000 people last month. The ADP is often used as a gauge ahead of the broader Labor Department report, which also includes government jobs with private sector employment.
Stocks rose yesterday after the better-than-expected report from ADP and unexpected growth in the services industry. The Dow rose 44 points.
Meanwhile, bond prices traded in a narrow range today as investors avoid big moves. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 2.95 percent from 2.96 percent late yesterday. Its yield is often used as a benchmark for interest rates on mortgages and other consumer loans.