Stock futures little changed as investors await jobs data

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures were flat on Friday as investors refrained from making big bets ahead of a key jobs data, a day after President Donald Trump’s softened stance on trade tariffs helped markets close higher.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Worries that Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum could ignite a global trade war had roiled markets since last Thursday, with the exit of chief economic adviser Gary Cohn intensifying the concerns.

Signs of a potential breakthrough in nuclear tensions in the Korean peninsula also boosted sentiment, with world shares hitting one-week highs on Friday.

Trump said he was prepared to meet North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in what would be the first face-to-face encounter between the two countries’ leaders.

“Market participants are not overly eager about this event as they know the game but we are seeing more optimism than pessimism among traders and this is all what matters,” Think Markets’ chief market analyst Naeem Aslam said in a note.

By 7:09 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis 1YMc1 were up 11 points, S&P 500 e-minis ESc1 were down 0.5 points and Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQc1 were up 1.5 points.

The U.S. Labor Department’s closely watched hiring report will likely show nonfarm payrolls increased by 200,000 jobs for the second straight month in February.

Average hourly earnings are expected to rise 0.2 percent after advancing 0.3 percent in January. The data is expected at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Strong jobs data last month fueled speculation that higher wages could lead to faster interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve and make borrowing expensive, rattling global equities market.

“Usually, the financial markets would have only one thing to focus when the US-non farm payroll data comes out, but today, it is not that day,” Aslam added.

The unemployment rate is forecast falling one-tenth of a percentage point to 4.0 percent, which would be the lowest since December 2000 when the jobless rate was 3.9 percent. The data is also due at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Charles Evan and Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren were scheduled to speak at separate events.

Among premarket movers, discount retailer Big Lots (BIG.N) slid 7 percent after posting a surprise drop in same-store sales and forecasting a weak profit for the current quarter and the full year.

Insys Therapeutics (INSY.O) were down 6 percent after reporting disappointing sales for its opioid cancer painkiller Subsys.

Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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