The S&P futures are up six points and are trading 0.2% above fair value. Now that you know that, here is the grain of salt to go with it.
We're downplaying that positive disposition simply because we saw what happened on Wednesday when the positive, pre-market vibes, and all of the reasons cited for them, soon gave way to a negative vibe and regurgitated reasons for why they didn't last.
A noticeable downturn in the energy sector, which dropped along with a big drop in oil prices, and a disappointing reversal in the financial sector despite the good results from Morgan Stanley (MS), proved to be the main weights on the broader market.
In effect, though, the real weight was the lethargy among buyers who are being confronted with an elevated sense of uncertainty related to (geo)political developments and the halting consideration that the stock market has not been able to advance on otherwise good earnings news.
That lethargy could give way to some real energy if the first round of balloting in the French presidential election this Sunday doesn't pit the far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, against the far-left candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon, in the second round of balloting on May 7.
That is pretty much the worst-case scenario since both candidates have an anti-euro disposition that would raise a lot of concerns about the fate of the European Union.
That bridge will be crossed when we get to it, yet the menacing troll of uncertainty is guarding that bridge for the moment, which is partly why the stock market has found it difficult to gain upside traction.
There will be some upside traction when the opening bell rings, though, as the favorable response to earnings results from CSX Corp. (CSX), Qualcomm (QCOM), and American Express (AXP) have provided some early support.
In addition, oil prices ($51.01, +$0.16, +0.3%) have bounced back slightly from a 3.0% loss Wednesday on well-timed remarks from OPEC officials suggesting a consensus is building for extending the OPEC/non-OPEC production cuts beyond June. A better than expected trade report out of Japan, which featured a 12% increase in exports and a 15.8% increase in imports in March can also be added to the mix of positive focal points.
We'd be inclined to place the initial claims report there, too. Granted initial claims increased by 10,000 to 244,000 (Briefing.com consensus 242,000) for the week ending April 15, yet that is still a relatively low level that covers the week in which the survey for the April employment report was conducted.
The key takeaway from the report, then, is that it will drive expectations for a solid increase in nonfarm payrolls for April.
There were no special factors influencing the initial claims reading, which held below 300,000 for the 111th straight week. The latest reading also dropped the four-week moving average from 247,250 to 243,000.
Continuing claims for the week ending April 8 decreased by 49,000 to 1.979 million. That is the lowest level for continuing claims since April 15, 2000.
Separately, the Philadelphia Fed Index slipped from 32.8 in March to 22.0 in April (Briefing.com consensus 23.7). A number above zero denotes an expansion in manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia Fed region. The Diffusion Index for the six-month outlook fell from 59.5 to 45.4
The pullback in April was paced by a drop in the New Orders Index from 38.6 to 27.4 and a drop in the Shipments Index from 32.9 to 23.4.
The key takeaway from the report is that manufacturing activity slowed in April, but even so, it remains at a relatively high level.
What the key takeaway is from the stock market's performance today remains to be seen. Lately, though, it has been more take than give due to the increased level of uncertainty.