Markets

S&P 500 set to edge higher, but faces first monthly loss since March

U.S. stock-index futures pointed to a small rise at the open Thursday after a pair of economic reports put the S&P 500 on track to wrap up August on a low-key note and suffer its first monthly drop since March.

Low levels of first-time jobless claims suggest the labor market remains robust, while consumer spending—the biggest driver of the economy—picked up in July thanks to higher income and low inflation.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures












YMU7, +0.31%










 gained 67 points, or 0.3%, to 21,938.00, while S&P 500 futures












ESU7, +0.32%










 rose by 6.50 points, or 0.3%, to 2,463.00, Nasdaq-100 futures












NQU7, +0.32%










 tacked on 13 points, or 0.2%, to 5,947.00.

On Wednesday, the Dow












DJIA, +0.36%










S&P 500












SPX, +0.39%










 and Nasdaq Composite












COMP, +0.47%










all closed higher after strong readings on U.S. economic growth and private-sector jobs, with the S&P rising for a fourth straight session.

With one day to go in August, the Dow is flat for the month, while the S&P is 0.5% lower and the Nasdaq is up by 0.3%. If the Dow and S&P end up in the red for August, that would be the first monthly drop since March for each gauge. For the year, the blue-chip barometer is up 11%, while the S&P has climbed 10%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq has surged 18%.

Some analysts said the market has been supported by earnings and positive economic environment.

“In an environment where the economy and earnings continue to grow, markets will also climb. Geopolitics shake up markets from time to time, but usually do not have long-lasting impact,” said Arian Vojdani, investment strategist at MV Financial.

Equities and other assets viewed as relatively risky have stabilized after a late-August slump thanks in part to that better-than-expected U.S. data and a stronger-than-anticipated reading on Chinese manufacturing out Thursday, according to Richard Perry, a Hantec Markets analyst.

Data deluge: Consumer spending rose 0.3% last month, helped by higher incomes and low inflation. The pace of inflation, meanwhile, was little changed in July, up 0.1%.

Initial jobless claims in the period running from Aug. 20 to Aug. 26 rose by 1,000 to 236,000, which is still close to a postrecession low, pointing to another solid monthly employment report near the end of summer. Official jobs report will be released Friday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.

See: August jobs data is crucial test for U.S. dollar

At 9:45 a.m. Eastern, investors are slated to get an August reading on business conditions in the Chicago area, then July pending home sales are set to arrive at 10 a.m. Eastern.

Check out: MarketWatch’s Economic Calendar

Other markets: U.S. oil prices












CLV7, +1.17%










 rose and gasoline futures












RBU7, +8.32%










 jumped above $2 a gallon on Thursday, as flooding due to Tropical Storm Harvey continued to wreak havoc on refineries along the Gulf Coast.

European stocks












SXXP, +0.90%










advanced but were headed for another monthly drop, while Asian markets finished mostly higher. The ICE U.S. Dollar Index












DXY, +0.23%










was gaining, while gold futures












GCZ7, +0.16%










 were lower.

Individual movers: Retailer Dollar General Corp.












DG, -7.32%










 and food giantCampbell Soup Co.












CPB, -4.32%










 fell by 3% and 5%, respectively, in premarket action after posting earnings ahead of the open.

Software company Box Inc.












BOX, -1.58%










 shed 5% in thin premarket trading in the wake of its quarterly results late Wednesday.

Shares in Walt Disney Co.












DIS, -0.16%










 also could see active trading following news that it’s preparing significant budget cuts at its Disney/ABC Television Group that will include staff reductions and restructuring efforts.

Arkema SA












AKE, -1.85%










 traded 3% lower in Paris after the French industrial chemicals manufacturer said it has been notified about two explosions and black smoke coming from its plant in Crosby, Texas, after flooding due to Tropical Storm Harvey. Arkema also trades in the U.S. via American depositary receipts












ARKAY, +0.90%









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