Market Snapshot: U.S. stock futures tip lower in countdown to jobs data

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U.S. stock futures dipped slightly on Friday, but traded in tight ranges as investors focused on the upcoming monthly jobs report, on watch for a rebound for jobs growth.

Trade talks between the U.S. and China were also drawing attention, as the second day of discussions took place. The U.S. has reportedly handed Beijing’s team a lengthy list of demands aimed at cutting the trade imbalance between the two.

Investors are bracing for another batch of earnings reports, from Alibaba Group Holding Inc. and others. Several Federal Reserve speakers will make appearances at a conference as well.

What did the main benchmarks do?

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures YMM8, -0.18%  were down 30 points, or 0.1%, to 23,880, while S&P 500 futures ESM8, -0.15% ESM8, -0.15% slipped 2.55 points, or 0.1%, to 2,629.25. Nasdaq-100 futures NQM8, -0.26%  fell 13.50 points, or 0.2%, to 6,651.

On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.02% recovered from a decline of as many as 394 points and closed up less than 0.1%, to 23,930.15, ending a four-session slide. The S&P 500 index SPX, -0.23% dropped 0.2% to 2,629.75, and the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -0.18% closed 0.2% lower at 7,088.15.

For the week, the Dow industrials were set for a 1.6% slide as of Thursday’s close, while the S&P 500 was looking at a 1.5% fall and the Nasdaq at a 0.4% decline.

What’s driving markets?

Economic data could drive the action Friday, with key nonfarm payrolls data ahead. It comes in the same week that a Federal Reserve meeting left investors uncertain over the central bank’s policy plan. Jobs data are among the figures the central bank uses in determining monetary policy, so a surprisingly good or bad number could strengthen or weaken the case for a rate rise.

In Beijing, U.S. and Chinese officials were meeting for discussions on tariffs and other trade issues. Worries about trade hostilities between the top two global economies have roiled financial markets in recent months. The U.S. has handed China a lengthy list of demands, the Wall Street Journal reported, including a demand to reduce the bilateral trade deficit by at least $200 billion by the end of 2020. The deficit stood at $375 billion last year.

Which economic data are in focus?

Nonfarm payrolls data for April are scheduled for release at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. An increase of 188,000 new jobs is forecast in a MarketWatch poll of economists, after the surprisingly small 103,000 rise in March.

The unemployment rate is expected to fall to 4%, after sticking at 4.1% for six months despite a steady pace of hiring. The report also includes the closely watched reading on average hourly earnings, with expectations for a monthly rise of 0.2%.

Read: Unemployment close to breaking below 4% barrier: What to watch in April jobs report

Several Federal Reserve officials are scheduled to speak on Friday. New York Fed President William Dudley kicks off the speeches at 12:45 p.m. Eastern at Bloomberg headquarters in New York, covering “financial tumult of our times and challenges ahead.”

San Francisco Fed President John Williams is set to appear at a monetary policy conference at the Stanford University’s Hoover Institution at 3 p.m. Eastern. At the same conference, Fed Vice Chair for Supervision Randal Quarles steps up at 5:30 p.m. Eastern to talk about liquidity regulation and the Fed’s balance sheet.

Dallas Fed President Rob Kaplan, Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic and Kansas City Fed President Esther George are all slated to take part in a panel discussion at the conference at 8 p.m. Eastern.

What are strategists saying?

“Barring a significantly disappointing [nonfarm payroll] release, today’s data are unlikely to change market expectations of a rate hike next month. And should the data surprise to the upside, this could increase speculation that the Fed may need to raise rates more quickly than previously expected. Therefore, the release may provide limited dollar direction, unless there are any surprises,” said Alexandra Russell-Oliver, FX analyst at Caxton, in a note.

Which stocks are in focus?

Alibaba BABA, +0.55% VF Corp. VFC, -1.52%  , Newell Brands Inc. NWL, -0.60%  and Celgene Corp. CELG, -1.73%  are on the earnings docket ahead of the market open.

Don’t miss: Alibaba earnings preview: Plenty of reasons to pay attention to payments

After the close, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. BRK.A, -1.17% BRK.B, -0.88%  is scheduled to release its quarterly earnings report. The company plans to hold its annual investors’ meeting in Omaha on Saturday.

Check out: How Warren Buffett’s stock picks for Berkshire Hathaway have performed in 2018

Apple Inc. AAPL, +0.18%  shares could be in focus after CNBC reported Berkshire Hathaway bought 75 million shares of the iPhone maker in the first quarter.

CBS Corp. CBS, -0.51% shares could rise in premarket trading, after the media company swung to a quarterly profit and reported a sales beat.

GoPro Inc. GPRO, -0.20%  could follow up a 9% jump in late trading Thursday, which came as earnings for the technology company beat expectations.

Pandora Media Inc. P, +2.13%  shares rose more than 7% late Thursday. The streaming music company media posted an earnings and revenue beat.

Shake Shack Inc. SHAK, +0.25% shares jumped 6.5% in late trade. The burger chain posted an earnings beat and lifted its outlook.

What are other markets doing?

European stocks SXXP, +0.17% were trading higher, while Asian stocks closed mostly lower ahead of the U.S. jobs report.

Gold prices GCM8, -0.23%  inched down, while U.S. oil futures CLM8, -0.20%  moved slightly lower. The ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, +0.14% was up 0.2% at 92.561.