S&P futures flat ahead of jobless claims, service sector data

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(Reuters) – Futures tied to the S&P 500 stalled near all-time highs on Thursday ahead of weekly jobless claims data and surveys on the services sector, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

The labor market is slowly recovering but it has been undermined by a surge in COVID-19 infections and fresh business restrictions in the United States, which has boosted layoffs and added pressure on policy makers for a fresh relief package.

The Labor Department’s report, due at 8.30 a.m. ET (1330 GMT), is expected to show initial claims for jobless benefits eased slightly to 775,000 in the week ended Nov. 28 from 778,000.

U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has expressed hope that a fiscal stimulus deal could be reached “in the next few days”, and any legislation would likely need to be supplemented with further aid next year.

Republicans and Democrats also face a Dec. 11 deadline to pass a $1.4 trillion budget or risk a shutdown of the government.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases continued to rise. The mayor of Los Angeles warned the city was nearing “a devastating tipping point” and ordered residents to stay in their homes in new lockdown measures.

But progress in developing a working COVID-19 vaccine before the end of the year has helped investors look past a surge in COVID-19 infections, pushing the S&P 500 to a record closing high on Wednesday.

At 06:19 a.m. ET, Dow E-minis were down 30 points, or 0.1% and S&P 500 E-minis were down 1.25 points, or 0.03%.

Nasdaq 100 E-minis were up 19.5 points, or 0.16% as heavyweight Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Inc rose about 3% premarket after Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) raised its rating to “buy” from “neutral” in the run up to the electric-car maker’s addition to the S&P 500.

Waddell & Reed (NYSE:WDR) Financial jumped 46%, extending gains from the previous session after Australia’s Macquarie Group (OTC:MQBKY) announced a deal to buy the wealth manager for $1.7 billion.