Market Snapshot: U.S. stock futures mostly ease as fresh trade-war fears emerge

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U.S. stock futures showed signs of a struggle on Wall Street Thursday, which will mark the end of a largely positive month for equities.

Investor will get updates on consumer spending and home sales, while keeping an eye out for fresh headlines over Italy and trade wars. The Trump White House could announce tariffs on the European Union as soon as Thursday, according to reports.

See: Italy’s crisis may be a buying opportunity for stock investors

What did the main benchmarks do?

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures YMM8, -0.07% fell 12 points to 24,657, while S&P 500 index futures ESM8, -0.03%  slipped 0.6 point to 2,724. Nasdaq-100 futures NQM8, +0.07% added 4.75 points to 6,992.

A rally for oil prices and relief over worries about Italian politics drove a rally for stocks on Thursday, with the Dow DJIA, +1.26% DJIA, +1.26% climbing 306.33 points, or 1.3%, to close at 24,667.78, taking back most of Tuesday’s 392-point drop. The S&P 500 SPX, +1.27% gained 1.3%, also recovering its losses from the prior session. The Nasdaq Composite COMP, +0.89% was up 0.9%.

With one session left to close out May, the Dow is set to rise 2%, the S&P 500 is poised to gain 2.9% and the Nasdaq is set to surge 5.6%. An even bigger gain is in store for the Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks RUT, +1.50% which is set to gain nearly 7%. The index finished at an all-time high on Wednesday, up 1.4%, to 1,646.36.

Read: Why bulls are betting on small-cap stocks to continue their winning ways

What’s driving markets?

The latest Italian headlines indicated that President Sergio Mattarella will give populist leaders more time to form a government, a move that could stave off fresh elections, the threat of which triggered an early-week meltdown for global markets.

Trade headlines could also swing into focus, with the Trump administration expected to announce tariffs on European Union steel and aluminum imports as soon as Thursday. The threats, against the EU, Canada and Mexico, announced earlier this year, were suspended to give those countries time to make concessions.

Read: Trump ready to pull tariff trigger on EU — what analysts say investors should expect

Should those EU tariffs go ahead, the region could announce its own retaliatory measures, with classic American industries such as whiskey and motorcycles potentially under threat.

Read: Trump wants to bar German cars from U.S.: report

Which stocks were in focus?

In potential fallout from trade-war headlines and possible retaliation from the EU, shares of Harley-Davidson Inc. HOG, +0.00%  fell 2.2% in premarket trading. And some U.S. auto makers could be in the spotlight as their European counterparts came under pressure over trade fears, with Daimler AG DAI, -0.97%   off 0.8%. Ford Motor Co. F, +0.96%  rose 0.4% in premarket.

Read: VW beats deadline for U.S. emissions remedy

Dollar General Corp. DG, +0.29%  and Dollar Tree Inc. DLTR, +1.53%  will report earnings ahead of the open, with Lululemon Athletica Inc. LULU, -0.05% Ulta Beauty Inc. ULTA, -0.08%  and Costco Wholesale Corp. COST, +1.47%  due to report after market close.

Which economic reports are on tap?

A day ahead of the key monthly U.S. jobs report, data on weekly jobless claims are due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time, alongside readings on personal income, consumer spending and core inflation for April. The Chicago purchasing managers index for May is due at 9:45 a.m. Eastern Time, followed by pending home sales for April at 10 a.m. Eastern.

See: MarketWatch’s economic calendar

Check out: MarketWatch’s Economic Calendar

What are other markets doing?

The pan-European Stoxx Europe 600 Index SXXP, +0.15% SXXP, +0.15% was flat at 386.65, while Italy’s FTSE MIB stock benchmark I945, +0.79% was recently up 0.7%.

The euro EURUSD, +0.1457% EURUSD, +0.1457% continued its ascent, rising 0.2% to $1.1679, helping to push the ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, -0.13% 0.4% lower at 93.813.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, +0.54% was steady at 2.87%.

Gold futures GCM8, +0.18% rose 0.3%, while U.S. oil futures CLN8, -0.62% were down 0.6%.