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Futures edge higher ahead of non-farm payrolls data

Kitco News

(Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures edged higher on Friday as signs of a fast recovering global economy boosted sentiment ahead of data that is expected to show the U.S. economy created nearly a million jobs in April.

The Labor Department's closely watched employment report comes a day after an upbeat reading on weekly jobless claims, and will be the first to show the impact of the White House's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 pandemic rescue package approved in March.

A Reuters poll of economists showed nonfarm payrolls likely increased by 978,000 jobs last month after rising by 916,000 in March.

The data, due at 8:30 a.m. ET, is also expected to show that the unemployment rate fell to 5.8% from 6.0% and average hourly earnings slowed to a 0.4% drop after a 4.2% increase in March.

Investors will be looking for hints on monetary policy, as a stronger-than-forecast reading could spur bets that the Federal Reserve will reduce its massive stimulus program.

"The dilemma investors are facing right now is that while strong U.S. economic data is positive news, the accelerating growth is increasing the risk of an overheating economy and the Federal Reserve being forced to hike rates early," said Milan Cutkovic, market analyst at Axi.

Most stocks traded in a tight range before the opening bell, with mega-cap growth stocks such as Microsoft Corp, Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Facebook Inc rising between 0.2% and 0.6%.

Economically sensitive cyclical stocks also firmed, with planemaker Boeing Co up 0.4%, lender Goldman Sachs Group Inc rising 0.5% and oil major Chevron Corp gaining 0.1%.

At 7:01 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 85 points, or 0.25%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 9.75 points, or 0.23%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 36.25 points, or 0.27%.

The Nasdaq Composite index is set to fall 2.3% this week, its worst weekly decline since late February. The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average indexes, however, are on track for weekly gains.

Cigna Corp rose 0.8% as the health insurer raised its forecasts for full-year profit and revenue.

Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel

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