- US stock futures rose Thursday despite hawkish Fed comments and disappointing jobs data.
- Markets are looking to labor-market data for a health-check on the economy, with Friday's monthly jobs report in focus.
- Chinese stocks fell after a media outlet suggested scrapping tax incentives for the online gaming industry.
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US stock futures nudged higher Thursday as investors shrugged off hawkish remarks from a senior Federal Reserve official, looking ahead to jobs data that should shed light on the health of the reopening US economy.
US stocks closed mainly lower on Wednesday after Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida said conditions for the central bank to raise interest rates could be met by the end of 2022. That was more hawkish than the central bank's "dot plot" forecast, which shows most policymakers are looking for two rate hikes by the end of 2023.
Clarida also hinted the Fed might start tapering its asset purchases later this year or early next year, a view echoed separately by Mary Daly, president of the San Francisco Fed.
The US dollar rose in the wake of the comments, as traders priced in the prospect of an earlier tightening of policy. The benchmark 10-year bond yield also gained to reach 1.19%, up from a US close of 1.84%.
Markets have since turned their focus to updates on the US labor market in the countdown to the closely watched nonfarm-payrolls report on Friday. Analysts are concerned the monthly jobs report could be a disappointment, given mixed signals in recent data releases.
A reading on US private-sector employment in July on Wednesday showed a gain of 333,000 jobs, much lower than the 653,000 consensus estimate from Dow Jones.
Later Thursday, the US is due to release the latest update on weekly jobless claims. Initial claims are expected to have fallen to 380,000 from 400,000 the previous week. A reading on the US trade balance in June is also scheduled.
Asian equities were slightly mixed after Clarida's hawkish comments helped push Wall Street equities lower and after a Chinese state-media outlet took another shot at the online gaming industry. That fanned investors' concerns about Beijing's appetite for escalating its regulatory crackdown, which has already dented the tech and education sectors.
China's Securities Times reported on Wednesday that the government should cut off tax incentives for the gaming industry, citing the risk of teenage addiction and favorable tax treatment.
"From IPOs to tech to after-school education, the list of 'targets' seems to get longer every week," said Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at OANDA. "It seems we still have some way to go before the price discount on China equities offsets the regulatory risk from China's Government."
China also imposed new travel restrictions to check the spread of the coronavirus Delta variant, with authorities urging people to limit gatherings and avoid travel.
European equities were edging higher, still seen as getting a boost from Wednesday's final PMI data for July showing the fastest growth in business activity for 15 years. The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.3%, while Frankfurt's DAX added 0.2%.
But London's FTSE 100 was about flat ahead of a policy decision and statement from the Bank of England, which is expected to leave interest rates unchanged. Markets will be watching for any sign of policymakers breaking ranks on the central bank's stimulus program. The BOE has been edging towards a tightening of bond purchases, and the current program seems unlikely to be extended, UBS chief economist Paul Donovan said.
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