US stock futures tread water ahead of key jobs report, as Asian stocks stumble on Delta variant worries

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US stock futures pointed to a muted open on Friday as investors awaited the July jobs report.
The labor-market data will help shape market expectations for the Federal Reserve’s pace of asset purchases.
Asian stocks struggled as worries persisted about the Delta COVID variant and China’s government regulation.
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US stock futures pointed to a muted stock-market open on Friday as investors awaited the monthly jobs report, closely watched for a steer on the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying program, while Asian equities struggled as worries persisted about the spread of the Delta variant.
Futures linked to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and Nasdaq Composite stock indexes were all down about 0.1% as of 4:30 a.m. ET, suggesting a flat start to trading later in the day.
The three major stock indexes ended the Thursday session higher, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq at record-high levels.
Investors are bracing for the July nonfarm-payrolls data, scheduled for release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8.30 a.m. ET. The reading on the health of the labor market comes after Wednesday’s ADP private payrolls data badly missed estimates, and it will feed into the market’s assessment of whether the Fed will stick with its pace of asset purchases.
Economists polled by Reuters expect 870,000 nonfarm jobs were created in July, above June’s print of 850,000. But analyst targets are coming in at a broad range.
"Equities will probably go up anyway, as you can make a bullish case on either a high or lower number," Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at OANDA, said in a note. "A firm number should see the US dollar continue climbing, though, while a weak print will see it sink."
The US dollar index nudged higher, up 0.17% to 92.41, and was last up 0.1% against the yen.
Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari said on Thursday that the "frustrating" Delta variant could throw a wrinkle into the labor market’s recovery, and impact the timeline for slowing the central bank’s asset purchase program.
Investors in Asia are keeping a close eye on the Delta-variant outbreak in China, which has logged more than 300 cases, as a wider spread could prompt larger-scale lockdowns. That, combined with concerns Beijing may step up its regulatory crackdown, helped drive most Asian equities into negative territory to finish the week.
The Shanghai Composite fell 0.2%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.1%. However, Tokyo’s Nikkei rose 0.3%.
European markets traded mixed, with UK stocks opening lower after the Bank of England stood pat on monetary policy yesterday, as expected.
London’s FTSE 100 shed 0.2% and the Euro Stoxx 50 slipped 0.1%, while Frankfurt’s DAX rose 0.1%.
The strength in the dollar hurt gold. Spot prices for the precious metal fell 0.4% to $1,801.
Oil prices rose, but were still set for their biggest weekly loss since October due to rising COVID-19 cases and and a build-up in US crude stockpiles. Brent Crude rose 0.6% to $71.78 a barrel and West Texas Intermediate was up 0.5% to $69.50 a barrel.
Ether added 5% to reach $2,771 per coin after its much-anticipated EIP1559 network upgrade on Thursday, which is expected to positively impact DeFi usage. Meanwhile, bitcoin put on 6% to stand at $40,802.
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