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Jobless claims ahead, GameStop sales miss estimates - what's moving markets

Published 2023-12-07, 05:34 a/m
© Reuters

Investing.com -- U.S. stock futures hover around both sides of the flatline, as markets geared up for fresh labor market data that could help indicate how the Federal Reserve will approach its future interest rate decisions. Elsewhere, GameStop (NYSE:GME) shares slip after the video game retailer and meme stock darling posted lower-than-projected quarterly net sales, while China's exports rise in November.

1. Futures mixed

U.S. stock futures were mixed on Thursday, as investors remained cautious ahead of the release of the highly-anticipated monthly non-farm payrolls report later this week.

By 05:10 ET (10:10 GMT), the Dow futures contract had dipped by 66 points or 0.2%, S&P 500 futures were broadly unchanged, and Nasdaq 100 futures had inched up by 30 points or 0.2%.

The main indices on Wall Street ended in the red on Wednesday, with traders attempting to gauge the outlook for Federal Reserve monetary policy. The benchmark S&P 500 shed 0.4%, the 30-stock Dow Jones Industrial Average moved down by 0.2%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite dropped by 0.6%. 

Prior to closing, equities oscillated between small gains and losses after data showed that private payrolls grew by less than expected in November. When paired with news of a drop in October job openings earlier this week, the figures suggested that the Fed's aggressive campaign of interest rate hikes may be working to cool labor demand, a trend that theoretically could relieve some upward pressure on the policymakers' ultimate target: elevated inflation.

2. Jobless claims ahead as employment report looms large

Investors are preparing to closely parse through the remaining batch of labor market numbers this week, including jobless claims on Thursday and the all-important monthly employment report on Friday.

Economists expect the number of Americans who filed for first-time unemployment aid came in at seasonally-adjusted 222,000 last week. This would mark an uptick from 218,000 for the week ended on Nov. 25.

Continuing claims, a proxy for hiring that measures the amount of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid, is seen dipping to 1.910 million, down from a two-year high of 1.927 million for the week until Nov. 18 -- although some economists have flagged that the figure may not be completely reflective of the underlying state of the labor market due to seasonal fluctuations.

Thursday's data will serve as a precursor to the main event on the economic calendar this week: the publication of the closely-watched non-farm payrolls report for November. Any signs of weakening in the jobs picture could re-enforce predictions that the Fed will soon start to bring interest rates back down from more than two-decade highs.

3. GameStop misses revenue projections

GameStop has posted third-quarter revenue that missed expectations, sending shares lower in U.S. premarket trading, as the video game retailer was hit by consumers choosing to rein in expenditures during a time of economic uncertainty.

The company, which was at the center of a surge in excitement amongst retail investors over so-called "meme stocks" in 2021, reported net sales of $1.08 billion in the three months ended on Oct. 28 -- a decrease of 9.1% versus the corresponding period last year and below Bloomberg consensus estimates of $1.18B.

Sales dropped in the U.S., Canada and Australia, although these declines were partly offset by revenue growth in Europe.

Stubbornly high price growth and elevated interest rates have recently convinced many shoppers to spend less on gaming products, forcing key industry players to unveil disappointing financial forecasts. Analysts have also flagged that competition from e-commerce behemoths like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) could eat away at GameStop's share of the gaming market.

4. Chinese exports increase in November

Chinese exports unexpectedly rose in November, snapping a six-month losing streak, although a drop in imports indicated continued weakness in local demand.

Exports in the world's second-largest economy grew by 0.5% last month versus the prior year, topping projections for a fall of 1.1% and improving from a 6.4% dip seen in October.

The reading pointed to some strength in overseas demand, even as economic conditions in China’s biggest export destinations showed signs of deteriorating.

But local demand remained languid despite stimulus measures from Beijing, while recent weakness in the yuan was also weighing on purchases of foreign goods. Imports fell 0.6% in November, missing expectations for a rise of 3.3% and reversing a 3% gain registered in the prior month.

5. Crude inches up

Oil prices edged higher on Thursday, regaining some ground after slumping to a six-month low in the prior session, although concerns swirled around fuel demand in top importer China.

By 05:12 ET, the U.S. crude futures traded 1.2% higher at $70.19 a barrel, while the Brent contract climbed 1.3% to $75.28 per barrel.

Chinese customs data showed that crude oil imports in November slipped by 9% compared to the same period last year, a reading that exacerbated fears over demand in the country and limited oil price gains.

A decision by rating agency Moody's (NYSE:MCO) to place a downgrade warning on China's credit rating outlook earlier this week has also dented investor sentiment. Moody's flagged increased risks to the economy from a property market meltdown, as well as a lack of clear policy support from the government.

Analysts quoted by Reuters added that markets were worried by a higher-than-expected build in gasoline stocks and a drop in U.S. crude inventories.

Crude prices have slumped by around 10% since the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies including Russia -- a group known as OPEC+ -- announced output cuts last week. The reductions were voluntary for OPEC+ members, leaving many traders skeptical of their ability to lift prices.

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