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Futures edge lower; jobless claims data awaited

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures were very slightly lower on Thursday as investors awaited data on the labor market and attempted to determine whether equities’ long-term advance or recent weakness would be the driving trend going forward.

While Wall Street rose on Wednesday, recent action has been to the downside. The S&P has fallen for five of the past seven sessions, and on Wednesday it closed below its 14-day moving average for the second straight session, a sign of weak short-term momentum.

Despite that, the benchmark index is only 0.6 percent away from a record closing high hit last week, and it has not suffered a pronounced pullback in months.

Weekly jobless claims are due at 8:30 a.m. and are seen dipping by 2,000 to 300,000 in the latest week. The most recent read on the labor market, last week’s August payroll report, came in much weaker than expected. While this was a bearish sign for economic growth, it was also taken as a sign that the Federal Reserve may hold off on raising interest rates soon.

Overseas issues may return to the forefront a day after U.S. President Barack Obama said he had authorized U.S. air strikes in both Syria and Iraq as a part of a broad campaign against the Islamic State militant group.

While markets have thus far seen little impact from geopolitical tension or brutal violence in Iraq, any impact to the region’s oil supply would likely have a major effect on the commodity space. U.S. crude futures fell 1 percent to $90.79 per barrel and are down 5.4 percent in September.

(Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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