Market Snapshot: U.S. stocks look set to sink ahead of key Friday jobs report

All three U.S. benchmarks on Friday were poised to fall ahead of a key employment report that could help determine the rate-hike plans for the Federal Reserve.

How are the benchmarks performing?

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were off 91 points, or 0.4%, at 24,818, those for the S&P 500 index were down 11.35 points, or 0.4%, at 2,679.75, while Nasdaq-100 futures were trading 30.75 points, or 0.5%, lower at 6,793.75.

Check out: A death cross for the S&P 500 highlights a stock market in tatters

On Thursday, the Dow DJIA, -0.32%  declined 79.40 points, or 0.3%, to 24,947.67, though the index was down by as many as 785 points at its nadir. The S&P 500 index SPX, -0.15%  dropped 4.11 points, 0.2%, to 2,696.95, and the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +0.42%  fell 29.83 points, or 0.4%, to 7,188.26.

For the week, the Dow and S&P 500 are set to show declines of 2.3%, while the Nasdaq has thus far declined 1.9%.

Read: The Dow just slashed a 785-point plunge, marking its most stunning reversal since March

Thursday’s afternoon rebound put the Dow and the S&P back into the positive for 2018, while the Nasdaq built on its gains to rise 4.1% for the year.

What’s driving the market?

Wall Street is awaiting a key employment report due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time, with the nonfarm-payrolls report for November slated to show that 190,000 jobs were created. A steady unemployment rate at 3.7% is expected, with wage growth for the period rising 0.3%, according to average estimates of economists surveyed by MarketWatch.

The jobs data comes after a frenetic session that had been colored by fears of intensifying trade battles between the U.S. and China after the arrest in Canada of a top Chinese tech executive at China telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies, which amplified worries in a market already skittish about relations between Beijing and Washington on tariffs and intellectual-property rights.

Read: Huawei arrest creates concerns in Silicon Valley as well as abroad

Those fears combined with a persistent drop in crude-oil prices have made investors particularly on edge, fretting that global economic growth is imperiled.

Against that backdrop, the jobs report may provide more clarity on where Jerome Powell’s Federal Open Market Committee will stand on monetary policy when he convenes a two-day policy meeting Dec. 18-19.

Signs that the FOMC may take a less aggressive tack in normalizing rates have increased, with the Wall Street Journal on Thursday reporting that Fed officials are considering a new wait-and-see mentality at that December meeting.

Expectations for a December interest-rate increase are showing a 73% probability, down from 83% a week ago, according to CME Group data, with expectations increasing that policy makers may cool the rate-hike path in 2019.

Which stocks are in focus?

Shares of Big Lots Inc. BIG, -3.84%  were set to fall 8% premarket after wider-than-expected third-quarter loss.

What other data and Fed speakers are ahead?
  • Wholesale inventories for October are set to be released at 10 a.m.
  • The consumer-sentiment index also is scheduled to be released at that time
  • Federal Reserve Board Gov. is set to speak at 12:15 p.m.
  • St. Louis Fed President James Bullard will talk at 1 p.m.
  • A reading on consumer credit for October will be released at 3 p.m.

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