U.S. stock futures were roughly flat on Thursday as investors prepare for the second half of 2021.
Dow futures rose 11 points. S&P 500 futures were roughly flat. Nasdaq 100 futures were 0.2% lower.
Pre-trading was relatively quiet, although cruise company and retailer reopening game stakes were likely to open higher.
On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 210 points, supported by a 2.7% pop in Walmart. The S&P 500 was up 0.13% to close on a new high of 4,297.50. The Nasdaq Composite was the relative underperformer, down 0.2% as Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google parent Alphabet closed lower.
The big averages ended a strong first half of 2021 and second quarter on Wednesday.
For the year, the Dow is up 12.7% and is roughly 1.7% below its all-time high. The S&P 500 gained 14.4% in the first half of 2021 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 12.5%.
The S&P 500 posted its fifth consecutive positive month, rising 2.2% in June. The broad index also had its best first half since 2019.
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“Better news on Covid, vaccinations, reopenings, economic growth and profits have fueled progress. Almost equal profits were achieved in both quarters through a rotation in leadership that enabled broad participation, ”said Jim Paulsen, Chief Investment Strategist of the Leuthold Group.
The small-cap Russell 2000 surged more than 17% in the first six months of the year as the economy turned sharply into value as the economy reopened after the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Economic growth is likely to remain strong through 2021, and the question will be how much inflation fears return, how many bond yields may resume rising, and whether and how aggressive the Federal Reserve’s monetary chatter is getting more aggressive,” Paulsen said.
“If inflation fears calm down and bond yields stay low longer, expect growth and technology stocks to continue to drive the stock market higher. However, should strong economic growth aggravate inflation concerns and push bond yields up again, corrective fears may build and leadership should focus on cyclical stock sectors, small cap stocks and even international stocks, ”he added.
Historically, a strong first half for the stock market bodes well for the rest of the year. Whenever there was double-digit growth in the first half of the year, the Dow and S&P 500 never ended this year with an annual decline, according to Refinitive data from 1950.
If the S&P 500 was up more than 12.5% at the start of the year, the second half of the year shows an average increase of 9.7%, according to LPL Financial data from the 1950s.
The latest data on weekly jobless claims will be released Thursday at 8:30 a.m. ET. Economists polled by Dow Jones expect a total of 390,000 initial jobless claims last week, up from 411,000 in the week ending June 19.
The weekly unemployment data comes a day before the closely watched job report on Friday. According to a Dow Jones poll, economists expect 683,000 new jobs in June.
Walgreens Boots Alliance to release quarterly results before the bell on Thursday.
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