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Inventory futures are nonetheless forward of April's most essential job report

Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

Stock futures traded mostly flat on Thursday as investors waited for Friday's much-anticipated job report to gauge the pace of the labor market rebound.

Dow futures fell 18 points while contracts pegged to the S&P 500 were just above the flatline. The Nasdaq 100 futures were up 0.1%.

The Department of Labor will publish the April job report on Friday at 8:30 a.m. [CET]. Economists polled by Dow Jones estimate that 1 million people were hired last month and that the unemployment rate is likely to have fallen from 6% to 5.8%

April's job report will be particularly significant as the Federal Reserve works to deliver on its pledge to maintain its zero interest rate policy and other easing measures until it believes the job market is strong and inflation hotter. With market concerns over inflation, some on Wall Street believe that an exceptionally strong labor market report could be an early sign for the Fed that conditions are getting better.

During Thursday's regular session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 318 points, or 0.9%, to close near its session high to hit a record close of 34,548.53. The S&P 500 rose 0.8% to 4,201.62. The Nasdaq Composite eliminated previous losses, rising 0.4% to 13,632.84.

Thursday's gains came after a better than expected reading of unemployment claims. Initial unemployment insurance claims for the week ending May 1 were 498,000, a new low in the pandemic and better than a Dow Jones estimate of 527,000.

For the week, the major stock indices were mixed at close of trading on Thursday. The Dow was up about 2%, the S&P 500 was up 0.49% and the Nasdaq Composite was up more than 2.3%.

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