MARKET SNAPSHOT: Dow Futures Struggle For Direction As Traders Break For Thanksgiving

By Barbara Kollmeyer and Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

No holiday in China, where stocks drop sharply

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U.S. stock futures were struggling to make much headway on Thursday, as traders steered away from making any big trading bets and instead focused on Thanksgiving Day feasting.

The global backdrop for equities was mostly weaker, with Chinese stocks dropping sharply and European stocks largely sluggish except for French blue chips (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-head-toward-2nd-straight-loss-as-euro-pushes-higher-2017-11-23).

What are the main benchmarks doing?

S&P 500 futures inched higher by 2.40 points, or 0.1%, to 2,597, while Dow Jones Industrial Average futures edged up by 15 points, or 0.1%, to 23,500. Nasdaq-100 futures dipped by 3.50 points, or 0.1%, to 6,386.

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 and Dow posted modest declines (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/sp-eyes-another-record-but-meg-whitmans-farewell-could-prove-a-drag-2017-11-22), while the Nasdaq Composite inched up slightly to eke out another record. Stocks saw muted action and thin trading volumes, as the latest Federal Reserve minutes left the door open slightly (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fed-doubts-on-inflation-grow-but-rate-hike-likely-soon-minutes-show-2017-11-22) to keeping interest rates unchanged until the end of the year, as opposed to a hike in December.

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The three equity benchmarks are up between 16% and 28% for the year as of Wednesday's close, gains having been driven by an expanding U.S. economy, low returns for bonds, rising corporate profits and bets that the Trump administration will deliver tax cuts and other business-friendly policies.

Goldman Sachs:'Rational exuberance' to drive stock market in 2018 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/goldman-rational-exuberance-to-drive-stock-market-in-2018-2017-11-21)

What could help drive markets?

U.S. financial markets will be completely shut on Thursday in observance of the Thanksgiving Day holiday, and trading closes early on Friday. Roughly half of normal trading volumes are expected on Friday.

Read:When do markets close for Thanksgiving? (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/when-do-markets-close-for-thanksgiving-2017-11-17)

And check out:6 things all investors should be thankful for (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/6-things-all-investors-should-be-thankful-for-2017-11-22)

Retailers could be in focus when investors return Friday on one of the biggest shopping days of the year -- Black Friday. Amazon.com Inc.(AMZN) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.(WMT) are among the companies expected to compete for buyers' attention with a wide range of deals.

Read:How Goldman Sachs says you should play retail stocks ahead of Black Friday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-how-tied-retail-stocks-are-to-black-friday-and-holiday-shopping-2017-11-16)

(http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-how-tied-retail-stocks-are-to-black-friday-and-holiday-shopping-2017-11-16)Opinion:Investors can feel safe ignoring the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping reports (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/black-friday-shopping-wont-signal-the-stock-markets-december-path-2017-11-22)

What are other assets doing?

European stocks were largely little changed, while Asian markets logged losses (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/tech-stocks-lead-broad-gains-by-asian-markets-2017-11-20).

The Shanghai Composite slumped 2.3% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/chinese-stocks-fall-other-asian-markets-mostly-quiet-2017-11-22) amid concerns about regulatory moves in China to tighten up financial conditions. It marked the first time since Aug. 25 that the index finished with a drop or gain of at least 1%.

Oil futures (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-hovers-near-highest-levels-since-2015-as-supply-data-spreads-cheer-2017-11-23) were modestly higher, building on Wednesday's gain that came after the release of data that showed a drop in U.S. crude supplies (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-hovers-near-highest-levels-since-2015-as-supply-data-spreads-cheer-2017-11-23). The ICE U.S. Dollar Index and gold futures both dipped.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 23, 2017 11:22 ET (16:22 GMT)