After ending the previous session mixed, stocks may show a lack of direction in early trading on Thursday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a roughly flat open for the markets, with the S&P 500 futures down by just 1.25 points.

Traders may be reluctant to make significant moves ahead of the release of the Labor Department’s closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday.

Economists currently expect employment to jump by 978,000 jobs in April after surging up by 916,000 jobs in May. The unemployment rate is also expected to dip to 5.8 percent from 6.0 percent.

With the monthly jobs report looming, the Labor Department released a report this morning showing first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits fell by much more than expected in the week ended May 1st.

The report said initial jobless claims slid to 498,000, a decrease of 92,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 590,000.

Economists had expected initial jobless claims to edge down to 540,000 from the 553,000 originally reported for the previous week.

With the much bigger than expected decrease, jobless claims once again fell to their lowest level since hitting 256,000 in the week ended March 14, 2020.

The Labor Department released a separate report showing productivity rebounded by more than expected in the first quarter of 2021.

The report said labor productivity spiked by 5.4 percent in the first quarter after tumbling by a revised 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Economists had expected productivity to surge up by 4.3 percent compared to the 4.2 percent nosedive that had been reported for the previous quarter.

Meanwhile, the report showed unit labor costs edged down by 0.3 percent in the first quarter after soaring by a revised 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter.

Unit labor costs were expected to slump by 1.0 percent compared to the 6.0 percent jump that had been reported for the previous quarter.

Stocks fluctuated over the course of the trading day on Wednesday before eventually ending the session mixed. Despite the choppy trading, the Dow ended the session at a new record closing high.

The major averages finished the day on opposite sides of the unchanged line. While the Nasdaq fell 51.08 points or 0.4 percent to 13,582.43, the Dow rose 97.31 points or 0.3 percent to 34,230.34 and the S&P 500 inched up 2.93 points or 0.1 percent to 4,167.59.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Thursday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index surged up by 1.8 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index dipped by 0.2 percent.

The major European markets have also turned mixed on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index is up by 0.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index is down by 0.1 percent and the German DAX Index is down by 0.2 percent.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are falling $0.53 to $65.10 a barrel after edging down $0.06 to $65.63 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, after climbing $8.30 to $1,784.30 an ounce in the previous session, gold futures are rising $7.70 to $1,792 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 109.26 yen versus the 109.30 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.2053 compared to yesterday’s $1.2005.

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