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Futures lower ahead of weekly jobless claims, Powell talk

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(Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures dropped on Thursday as investors looked to data that is likely to show an increase in weekly jobless claims ahead of remarks from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell later in the day.

The number of Americans filing for jobless benefits likely rose to 750,000 in the latest week from 730,000. The data comes on the heels of Wednesday’s report showing slower-than-expected growth in February’s private payrolls.

The crucial monthly payrolls report is expected on Friday.

Wall Street’s main indexes fell for the second straight day on Wednesday as a spike in U.S. bond yields pressured high-flying tech stocks while economy-linked financials, energy, industrials outperformed on hopes of a new round of fiscal aid and vaccinations.

The market is focused on Powell, who is due to speak at a Wall Street Journal conference at 12:05 p.m. ET (1705 GMT), for any hints of concern about last week’s jump in bond yields, in what will be his last outing before the Fed’s policy-making committee convenes from March 16 to 17.

Ahead of Powell’s remarks, the 10-year Treasury yields were at 1.47% but held below last week’s one-year high of 1.614%.

Tech stocks are particularly sensitive to rising yields because their value rests heavily on future earnings, which are discounted more deeply when bond returns go up.

Microsoft Corp, Apple Inc and Inc dropped between 0.3% and 0.4% before the bell.

At 6:45 a.m. ET, Dow E-minis were down 146 points, or 0.5% and S&P 500 E-minis were down 24.75 points, or 0.67%. Nasdaq 100 E-minis were down 104 points, or 0.8%.

The S&P 500 is set to open below its 50-day moving average, an indicator of short-term momentum that has proved to be a support line in the recent days. The Nasdaq could wipe out nearly all of its year-to-date gains.

The U.S. Senate is expected to begin debating President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on Thursday after agreeing to phase out payments to higher-income Americans in a compromise with moderate Democratic senators.

Shares of Snapchat-owner Snap Inc dropped about 2% even as the company’s chief executive, Evan Spiegel, said the tech company expects to deliver 50% annual revenue growth over several years even without growing its user base or engagement.

Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel

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