US stock futures crept higher early Thursday as investors weighed fresh unemployment data and braced for Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s second day of testimony on Capitol Hill.
Futures tied to the S&P 500 rose 0.5%, and Dow Jones Industrial futures ticked up 84 points, or roughly 0.3%. Contracts on the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 0.6%. In the previous trading session, all three major indexes closed in the red but were little changed.
Stocks attempted to sustain this week’s gains after advances of more than 2% to start the holiday-shortened four-day trading period. Last week, the S&P 500 fell 5.8%, the most since March 2020, and marking the benchmark’s second back-to-back weekly loss of more than 5%.
US jobless claims remained near five-month high last week in a tentative sign the labor market may be starting to cool. The Labor Department reported Thursday that applications for unemployment insurance totaled 229,000 for the week ended June 18. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg anticipated claims to come in at 226,000.
Fed Chair Powell will be in the spotlight again on Thursday when he delivers remarks on monetary policy and inflation on day two of his meeting with lawmakers.
The US central bank leader on Wednesday told the Senate Banking Committee in prepared comments that the Fed is “strongly committed” to bringing down inflation, slightly toning down language from last week that indicated its fight against inflation is “unconditional.”
Powell also conceded in his testimony that a recession was a “possibility” and acknowledged that a soft landing would be a “very challenging” feat in the Fed’s fight to restore price stability.
“The Fed is behind — they’ve been behind for a while,” Claro Advisors’ Ryan Belanger told Yahoo Finance Live on Wednesday. “They’ve got their work cut out for them […] the soft landing speak is somewhat of a myth.”
Earlier this week, strategists at BlackRock warned that a recession appears all but inevitable in the Fed’s path forward, arguing that the current interest rate hiking campaign is likely to stall economic growth without necessarily solving the inflation issue.
“The Fed isn’t looking for a recession, even though in our view one would be needed if it wanted to drive inflation back down to 2%,” the firm stated.
Other Wall Street heavyweights have also ramped up recession talks, with warnings from economists at Citi, Goldman Sachs, and Deutsche Bank this week.
On the move
Western Petroleum (OXY)‘s stock rose more than 3% in pre-market trading after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway snapped up another 9.6 million shares of the oil giant on Wednesday. Berkshire owns about 152.7 million Occidental shares worth roughly $8.52 billion after the purchase based on the company’s price at Wednesday close.
Alexandra Semenova is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alexandraandnyc
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