Stock futures open slightly higher ahead of key April jobs report

Stock futures opened slightly higher Thursday as investors awaited Friday's highly anticipated jobs report to assess the pace of the labor-market recovery.

Dow futures were little changed, while contracts tied to the S&P 500 ticked just above the flatline. Nasdaq 100 futures rose 0.1%.

The Labor Department is set to publish April's jobs report at 8:30 a.m. ET on Friday. Economists polled by Dow Jones expect 1 million payrolls to have been added last month and the unemployment rate is expected to have fallen to 5.8% from 6%

April's job report will carry extra importance as the Federal Reserve works to fulfill its pledge to keep its zero rates policy and other easing measures in place until it believes the labor market is strong and inflation is hotter. As marketplace concerns about inflation brew, some on Wall Street believe an exceptionally strong jobs market report could prove an early sign for the Fed that conditions are returning to healthy.

During the regular session on Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 318 points, or 0.9%, to close near its session high and clinch a record close of 34,548.53. The S&P 500 rose 0.8% to 4,201.62. The Nasdaq Composite erased earlier losses and gained 0.4% to 13,632.84.

Thursday's gains came after a better-than-expected reading on jobless claims. First-time claims for unemployment insurance totaled 498,000 for the week ended May 1, hitting a fresh pandemic-era low and better than a Dow Jones estimate of 527,000.

For the week, the major stock indexes were mixed as of Thursday's close. The Dow is up about 2%, the S&P 500 had gained 0.49% and the Nasdaq Composite had shed more than 2.3%.

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