Concerns About Irma, North Korea May Weigh On Wall Street

The major U.S. index futures are pointing to a lower opening on Friday following the mixed performance seen in the previous session.

Concerns about the economic impact of Hurricane Irma may weigh on the markets, with the category 4 storm expected to make landfall in Florida early Sunday.

FEMA Administrator Brock Long warned Irma continues to be a threat that is going to devastate the U.S. in either Florida or some of the southeastern states.

The approach of Irma comes close on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, which led to widespread devastation and flooding in Texas.

Selling pressure may also be generated due to worries about North Korea, which is celebrating a holiday on Saturday that could be a key date for another intercontinental ballistic missile launch.

After ending the previous session moderately higher, stocks showed a lack of direction throughout the trading day on Thursday. The major averages spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line.

The major averages eventually ended the day roughly flat. While the Nasdaq inched up 4.55 points or 0.1 percent to 6,397.87, the Dow dipped 22.86 points or 0.1 percent to 21,784.78 and the S&P 500 edged down 0.44 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 2,465.10.

The choppy trading on Wall Street came on the heels of the European Central Bank’s highly anticipated monetary policy announcement.

The ECB kept all three of its interest rates unchanged and said it expects rates to remain at their current levels for an extended period of time.

The central bank also confirmed that its net asset purchases are intended to run at the current monthly pace of 60 billion euros until the end of December, or beyond, if necessary.

ECB President Mario Draghi’s subsequent press conference was seen as dovish, as he said inflation is still expected to move towards the bank’s target but warned downside economic risks continue to exist.

Draghi also suggested that decisions about the future of the ECB’s massive stimulus would be put off until the next monetary policy meeting in late October.

On the U.S. economic front, the Labor Department released a report showing a sharp increase in first-time claims for unemployment benefits in the week ended September 2nd.

The report said initial jobless claims jumped to 298,000, an increase of 62,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 236,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to rise to 241,000.

A separate report from the Labor Department showed labor productivity…

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