U.S. Advance Estimate Gross Domestic Product for 2Q; U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims; Amazon.com 2Q earnings; Comcast Corp. 2Q earnings; MasterCard Inc. 2Q earnings; Merck & Co. Inc. 2Q earnings.
Stock futures edged up ahead of fresh data on economic growth and the labor market that are expected to provide insight into the state of the recovery.
Earnings season is under way with Hershey, Comcast, Mastercard and Carlyle Group scheduled to report ahead of the opening bell. Amazon. com and T-Mobile are expected to post earnings after markets close.
"Most companies are in a pretty positive situation. They have cash, they have demand. It's something that was a bit expected already from last quarter, but we're still having positive surprises," said Ludovic Subran, chief economist at Allianz.
Facebook posted sharp growth in quarterly revenue and profit late Wednesday but shares declined 3.5% in after hours trading after the company said it expects revenue growth to slow in the second half of the year.
Popular investing platform Robinhood will begin trading on the Nasdaq on Thursday, after pricing its IPO at $38 a share, at the bottom of its expected range.
In Asia, most major benchmarks rose. The Chinese government sought to reassure global banks and investors about the recent volatility in markets, saying that Beijing would consider the market impact of future policies.
The latest data on gross domestic product in the U.S. in the second quarter is slated to go out at 8:30 a.m. ET. Economists are forecasting an almost 9% jump on an annualized basis. Jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, are also scheduled to go out at 8:30 a.m.
"Spending by American families has certainly skyrocketed over the past couple of months and GDP should capture that," said Mr. Subran.
Investors are also digesting the latest communication from the Federal Reserve. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that the U.S. economy had progressed and signaled that the central bank may taper bond-buying programs this year.
"The essence of the message is that they're not in a hurry," said Sebastien Galy, a macro strategist at Nordea Asset Management. "We'll likely see a relatively slow pace of tapering and one that the market can anticipate."
Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 advanced.
Earnings pushed around the shares of several blue-chip European companies. Credit Suisse slid 3.5% after it reported a sharp decline in quarterly profit and said it lost billions from the blowup of family office Archegos due to failures of its management and controls.
Telecommunications-equipment maker Nokia surged nearly 7% after its quarterly revenue and profit beat analysts' estimates. Airbus advanced 3.3% after it lifted its guidance for full-year profit and deliveries. Danone rose 4.8% after the food company reported higher net profit in the first half of the year.
Beer making giant Anheuser-Busch InBev tumbled 6.8% after it posted earnings that came in below analysts' expectations and said it was facing headwinds from tight supply chains.
The dollar fell to its lowest in three weeks against a basket of currencies as the Fed remained cautious at Wednesday's meeting.
A message that the central bank is moving closer to scaling back asset purchases wasn't enough to lift the currency, as Fed Chair Jerome Powell said "we're not there yet" and there is "some ground to cover to get there," said Lee Hardman, currency analyst at MUFG.
"Last night's FOMC meeting failed to provide the fresh bullish trigger required to regain upward momentum [in the dollar] in the near-term," Hardman said, adding that the Fed's policy update was "largely in line with expectations."
The euro won't enjoy much of a boost from the Fed's cautious tone at Wednesday's policy meeting, ING said.
While the dollar weakened after the Fed's meeting, pushing EUR/USD higher, the euro will be the "laggard" among G10 currencies along with other low yielding currencies with "dovish" central banks including the Japanese yen and Swiss franc, ING analysts said.
"This is because the Fed will eventually be ahead of the European Central Bank in normalising policy, particularly next year when the Fed fully ends quantitative easing and starts hiking [interest rates]."
EUR/USD will struggle to "persistently and meaningfully" rise above 1.20, the analysts said.
Optimism over the recent decline in U.K. coronavirus cases could prompt speculators to rebuild bets on a stronger sterling, ING said.
"Sterling continues to reap the benefits of the slowdown in Covid-19 cases, in turn reversing the prior market concerns about another meaningful wave," ING analysts said.
There is room to rebuild sterling long positions, which expect the currency to appreciate, following a meaningful decline over the past few months, they said.
In bond markets, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note slid to 1.249%, from 1.259% Wednesday.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell did not provide much in the way of new information that would help the markets to pin down the timing of the tapering announcement, said Brian Rose, senior economist for Americas at UBS Global Wealth Management.
Powell also made it clear that no decisions had been made yet, and "all of this suggests a tapering announcement is not imminent," Rose said. Based on that, UBS Global Wealth Management maintains the view that the Fed will be dropping "stronger and stronger" hints in the months ahead, with December the most likely timing of the formal tapering announcement.
Oil prices rose after Wednesday's Energy Information Administration data mostly confirmed those of the American Petroleum Institute the previous day, said ING's Warren Patterson.
The drop in U.S. inventories revealed by both sets of data comes mostly from lower imports--specifically from Iraq--with stocks at Cushing, Oklahoma, at their lowest since last January.
Elsewhere, Royal Dutch Shell and TotalEnergies shares are up 3.6% and 2.6%, respectively, after both released second-quarter results. Shell's income and cash generation were well ahead of expectations, while Total investors are enthused by the company's balance between maintaining its dividend, green spending, and its core business, said RBC Capital Markets' Biraj Borkhataria.
Copper prices gain, lifted by a weaker dollar and supply risks in major producer Chile. Three-month copper on the LME was up 1.5% at $9,801 a metric ton. Demand for the metal is getting a lift as the ICE Dollar Index falls to a four-week low in the wake of the Fed's policy meeting.
The potential of strike action at the world's largest copper mine added to price support. The union at the Escondida mine in Chile urged its members to strike over owner BHP's latest contract offer.
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