By Joe Wallace 

U.S. stock futures ticked higher Thursday ahead of jobs data that are expected to show the economic recovery gained more momentum in recent weeks.

Futures for the S&P 500 ticked up 0.2%. Contracts for the Dow Jones Industrial Average also edged up 0.2%, a day after the blue-chip index closed at a record for the 22nd time this year. Futures for the technology-focused Nasdaq-100 rose 0.4%.

Major U.S. indexes stand at or close to all-time highs, bolstered by a surge of economic growth and corporate earnings as restrictions on some activities are relaxed. Some investors say the speed of the U.S. recovery, which stands in contrast to some other regions where Covid-19 vaccines aren't as widespread, will keep stocks on an upward trajectory.

"We should see cash flows and company cash flows really improve, especially with the reopenings happening," said Mary Nicola, a fund manager at PineBridge Investments. Although valuations are high, stocks remain attractive compared with low-yielding bonds, she added.

Data due at 8:30 a.m. ET are expected to show that filings for jobless benefits, a proxy for layoffs, fell to 527,000 last week. That would bring the four-week average to its lowest point since the pandemic took hold, a signal the labor-market rebound is gathering pace.

First-quarter results from Moderna, CBS, Blue Apron and Kellogg are due before the opening bell. News Corp., The Wall Street Journal's parent company, and Beyond Meat are scheduled to report earnings after markets close.

Companies have blown past forecasts so far this earnings season. Of the 381 companies on the S&P 500 that had reported through Wednesday, 84% had topped analysts' expectations, according to FactSet.

Yet many companies beating forecasts have seen a lackluster response in their share price. Some investors say that is a sign, alongside recent volatility in tech stocks, that the rally that began last March is beginning to flag.

"Although the S&P is just 1% off its high, I think equity markets are beginning to look very fatigued," said Paul O'Connor, head of multiasset investments at Janus Henderson.

Indicators including surveys by the American Association of Individual Investors suggest investors are almost uniformly bullish, a setup that tends to precede a pullback in stocks, according to Mr. O'Connor. "There are such high expectations embedded in markets that we're going to need a steady stream of good news just to maintain the current prices," he said.

In overseas markets, the Stoxx Europe 600 edged up 0.1% and is hovering close to its record closing level. Gains for food-and-beverage stocks offset losses for shares of travel, leisure and tech companies.

Société Générale was among the best-performing stocks in the region, gaining over 6% after the French bank reported the best quarter for its markets business in years. Vestas Wind Systems fell 4% after the Danish wind-turbine maker posted a net loss for the first quarter.

Copper prices continued to advance, climbing 0.8% to $10,006 a metric ton on the London Metal Exchange. Rising commodity prices have bolstered expectations for a pickup in inflation.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 1.8% by the close and China's Shanghai Composite slipped 0.2%.

Shares of Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical and other Asia-based pharmaceutical companies tumbled after the U.S. said it would support a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights of Covid-19 vaccine makers. Hong Kong-listed shares of Shanghai Fosun closed 14% lower.

--Ronnie Harui contributed to this article.

Write to Joe Wallace at Joe.Wallace@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 06, 2021 05:04 ET (09:04 GMT)

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