Stock Futures Grind Higher on Mixed Economic Data

U.S. stock futures edged higher Thursday after data showed another leap in consumer prices and a continuing recovery in the labor market as the economy emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.

Futures for the S&P 500 ticked up 0.2%, while contracts on the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.4%. The Dow slid 0.4% on Wednesday, while the broader market gauge ticked down 0.2%.

Contracts for the technology-focused Nasdaq-100 slipped almost 0.2% Thursday.

The muted moves suggest stocks may extend a spell of listless trading at the opening bell. The major indexes have moved in a narrow range just below all-time highs in recent weeks. Investors are balancing optimism in the economic recovery against concerns about inflation and supply shortages, among other risks.

Consumer prices rose 5% in May from a year earlier, the Labor Department said, marking the highest annual inflation rate in nearly 13 years. Investors are seeking to determine whether the acceleration will fade away or prove long-lasting, potentially prompting the Federal Reserve to dial back efforts to stimulate the economy.

“As long as we’ve got cheap money, we’ve got a savings glut, not just in the West but in Asia. I think there is decent support for stocks,” said Jane Foley, head of foreign-exchange strategy at Rabobank. “I don’t imagine there is going to be a really serious downturn.”

Inflation expectations have eased in recent weeks, but it remains at the top of mind for many money managers. Thursday’s data won’t end the arguments over how inflation may play out over the coming years, Ms. Foley said before the data came out.

“What’s quite stunning given the debate over inflation that has been really dominating market attention this year is that bond yields this week have slipped so far,” she added.

On Thursday, the yield on 10-year Treasury notes edged up to 1.515%. It had closed Wednesday at 1.489%, its lowest level in more than three months. A combination of tepid economic data, the Federal Reserve’s message that it won’t quickly withdraw stimulus to ward off inflation, and strong demand for bonds from investors overseas have been dragging yields down, analysts say.

Separate data showed jobless claims, seen as a proxy for layoffs, fell to 376,000 last week, extending a recent decline for unemployment benefits and adding to signs of a healing labor market.

The Nasdaq stock exchange was decorated for Marqeta’s IPO Wednesday.

Photo: Richard B. Levine/Zuma Press

Ahead of the opening bell, GameStop shares fell almost 8%. The original meme stock and videogame retailer said Wednesday it was planning a stock offering after resetting its leadership team.

The euro was 0.1% lower against the dollar at $1.2173 after the European Central Bank kept its key interest rates on hold and said it would keep buying bonds at a faster pace than earlier in the year.

Overseas markets were mixed. A decline in travel, leisure and retail stocks helped push the Stoxx Europe 600 down less than 0.1%. The regional gauge closed at a record high Wednesday.

Asian markets closed broadly higher. The Shanghai Composite Index ended the day up 0.5%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 edged up 0.3%.

Write to Joe Wallace at Joe.Wallace@wsj.com

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