Coming off a mixed and relatively flat session on Wednesday, the futures for the major indices are pointing to a mixed and relatively flat open today.
The lack of conviction reflects a hesitation that is emerging in the face of a stock market that has been acting squirrelly of late, unable to hold its gains as it has fallen victim to the uncustomary disposition of selling into strength.
That disposition of course comes on the heels of a strong up leg rooted in optimism about tax reform efforts, which got exacerbated by short-covering activity and a fear of missing out on further gains.
Pullback efforts, then, still have the semblance of being a profit-taking move from an overheated market as opposed to anything more menacing for market bulls.
With the tax bill up for negotiation between the House and Senate, and the specter of a government shutdown looming in the event a continuing resolution is not agreed to before midnight on Friday, it is understandable that market participants are dialing back some of their bullish enthusiasm that was palpable only a week ago.
What's going on at the index level, though, doesn't necessarily connote what's going on beneath the surface.
Individual stocks are seeing some outsized trading moves based on specific company news.
Stocks like Broadcom (AVGO), Dollar General (DG), lululemon (LULU), Ciena (CIEN), and Tailored Brands (TLRD), for example, are all trading at least 4% higher in pre-market action following their latest earnings reports.
Accordingly, the bulls may not be running on index pastures, yet they are still running in the forest. That is lending a measure of offsetting support for the S&P futures, which are down one point and are trading slightly below fair value.
The Nasdaq 100 futures are up 10 points while the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures are down 64 points; hence, the contention that the cash market looks poised for a mixed and relatively flat start.
The weekly initial claims report didn't have any bearing on trading matters, because it didn't contain any notable surprises.
Initial claims for the week ending December 2 decreased by 2,000 to 236,000 (Briefing.com consensus 240,000), leaving them below 300,000 for the 144th straight week. Continuing claims for the week ending November 25 decreased by 52,000 to 1.908 million.
Another reason why this report has been glossed over is because market participants have their labor market sights set on the November Employment Situation report, which will be released before the open on Friday.
So, sit back and don't necessarily relax. A squirrelly market is prone to doing squirrelly things. Right now, though, there isn't much nut gathering going on by either the bulls or the bears.