Futures circle record highs, eyes on jobs report for taper cues

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures held near record highs on Friday as all attention shifted to the highly anticipated jobs report that could feed into the Federal Reserve’s plans to taper its massive pandemic-era stimulus.

A person waits on the Wall Street subway platform in the Financial District of Manhattan, New York City, U.S., August 20, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Global gained 5.1% after a media report that the city of Beijing was considering moves that would give state entities control of the company.

Banks were among the top gainers before the opening bell, with Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, J.P.Morgan and Wells Fargo all rising between 0.3% and 0.7%.

Trading in technology heavyweights, which tend to perform better in a low interest-rate environment, was mixed. Apple, Alphabet and Facebook rose as much as 0.3%, but Tesla and Netflix edged lower.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq have scaled all-time highs over the past few weeks on support from robust corporate earnings, but investors have grown cautious recently as the Fed issued hawkish signals while data pointed to a slowdown in a broader economic recovery.

The Labor Department’s jobs report, which is due at 8:30 a.m. ET, is expected to show U.S. employment growth likely pulled back in August after gaining nearly 2 million in the past two months.

The labor market remains the key touchstone for the Fed, with Chair Jerome Powell hinting at the Jackson Hole Symposium last week that reaching full employment was a pre-requisite for the central bank to start paring back its asset purchases.

Separately, the Institute of Supply Management’s non-manufacturing PMI data, due to be released at 10:00 a.m. ET, is expected show slowing business activity in the services industry.

At 6:55 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 65 points, or 0.18%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 9 points, or 0.2%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 20.25 points, or 0.13%.

In company news, biotechnology firm Forte Biosciences slumped -82.9% to be among the top decliners across U.S. exchanges after its experimental treatment for eczema, a skin disease, failed to meet its main goal.

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