U.S. Stocks: Futures Gain With Jobs Report In Sight

U.S. stock futures posted slight gains Thursday, with investors ready for results from the widely watched U.S. labor-market report before they wrap up the holiday-shortened week.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJU4) rose 16 points, or 0.1%, to 16,915, while those for the S&P 500 index (SPU4) tacked on 2 points to 1,969. The Nasdaq 100 index (NDU4) picked up 5 points for 3,895.

The marquee event in Thursday's session comes at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time, when the U.S. Labor Department releases its nonfarm-payrolls data. The report has been moved up a day due to the July 4th holiday. Analysts polled by MarketWatch expect the addition of 215,000 jobs in June and the unemployment rate to remain at 6.3%. In May, the economy created 217,000 jobs.

"Market participants should be prepared for yet another solid employment report. Our statistical model estimates that 290,000 net new positions were created in June, while the civilian jobless rate moved one tick lower at 6.2%," said Michala Marcussen, global head of economics at Société Générale, in a Thursday note.

On Wednesday, payrolls processor ADP said private-sector hiring rose 281,000 in June, well above forecasts of a 210,000 increase.

If the nonfarm-payrolls report sharply outstrips expectations, it could spur speculation that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates sooner rather than later. Betting on rates would come as the S&P 500 index (SPX) and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) keep reaching record closing highs, though the Dow is still shy of finishing above the 17,000 level.

The government's report on weekly jobless claims is due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Economists expect seasonally adjusted claims to rise to 314,000. They fell by 2,000 to 312,000 in the week ended June 21.

Trade-balance figures for May are set for an 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time release from the Commerce Department, and economists expect the trade gap to narrow to $44.9 billion from $47.2 billion in April.

At 10 a.m. Eastern, the Institute for Supply Management will issue its services-sector index for June, with a reading expected at 56.3%, steady from May's result.

Shares of Synnex Corp. (SNX) may see more action during the regular session. They fell late Wednesday after a disappointing outlook from the business-process service provider.

In other markets, Asian stocks finished mixed, with the Nikkei Average slipping 0.1%. The Stoxx Europe 600 moved higher ahead of an policy announcement from the European Central Bank.

U.S. benchmark oil futures (CLQ4) fell 41 cents to $104.04 a barrel, and gold futures (GCQ4) fell $7.30 to $1,323.

Both the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq will close early at 1 p.m. Eastern Time for the July 4th holiday.