Futures subdued as focus turns to weekly jobless claims

FILE PHOTO: A trader works on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 28, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures rose marginally on Thursday, as easing worries around the Omicron variant put the S&P 500 and the Dow on track to extend record-setting runs, with focus turning to a weekly jobless report to gauge the country’s economic health.

The Labor Department’s weekly unemployment claims data, due at 8:30 a.m. ET (1330 GMT), is keenly awaited by investors looking to reinforce their confidence in the U.S. economy amid surging cases of COVID-19.

Equities have rallied recently, albeit in some of the thinnest trading volumes that U.S. stock exchanges have seen this year, as growing evidence emerged that the Omicron variant causes less severe illness than the Delta strain.

Aiding sentiment, top U.S. infectious disease adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday the surge in cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the United States is likely to peak by the end of January.

“The lesser severity of Omicron infection, and shortened quarantine guidance from the CDC, is consistent with our view toward incremental alleviation to supply chain disruption in early-2022,” wrote Scott Chronert, a U.S. equity strategist at Citigroup.

As Wall Street’s main indexes look to exit the year with their sharpest three-year surge since 1999, the attention will shift towards the pace of U.S. interest rate hikes in the face of soaring prices and supply chain logjams.

At 6:31 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 20 points, or 0.05%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 4.5 points, or 0.09%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 22.5 points, or 0.14%.

Among individual stocks, Biogen Inc slipped 6.0%, giving back some gains from the prior session as Samsung BioLogics denied a media report that said the South Korean firm was in talks to buy the U.S. drugmaker.

China’s ride-hailing firm Didi Global fell 4% after reporting a decline in third-quarter revenue, as its domestic business took a hit from a regulatory crackdown.

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