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Lower Ahead Of Jobs Report, As Trade Noise Rises

U.S. stock futures pared losses Friday, ahead of the March jobs report and after an overnight sell-off followed another uptick in the U.S. trade dispute with China.

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Merck (MRK) and Boeing (BA) led the Dow’s early declines. Data storage leader NetApp (NTAP) posted the widest loss among Nasdaq 100 and S&P 500 stocks. Apple (AAPL) and all four FANG stock tech leaders traded lower.

Stock futures for the Dow Jones industrial average slipped 0.7%. S&P 500 futures were down 0.5%. Nasdaq 100 futures traded 0.6% below fair value. All three indexes had fallen more than 1% in overnight trade.

The Dow heads into Friday’s open up 1.7% for the week after a three-day advance. The S&P 500 has a 0.8% gain and the Nasdaq Composite is ahead 0.2%. All three indexes showed support at their 200-day moving averages during the week, but face a test of resistance at their 50-day lines.

Markets will be keen on any further developments in the U.S. trade dispute with China, after the U.S. threatened $100 billion in additional penalties late Thursday, and China said early Friday it planned to stand firm “at any cost.”

The March jobs report is the day’s largest scheduled piece of economic news. Economist consensus projects U.S. employers to have added 178,000 during the month. That would send the unemployment rate to an estimated 4% — its lowest level since before the tech stock crash in 2000.

Boeing, Merck, Apple, NetApp Lead Early Losses

On the Dow, Merck and Boeing took the biggest early losses. Merck dropped 2.2% after announcing its melanoma treatment Epacadostat failed to meet its targets in a phase 3 clinical trial. Epacadostat was jointly developed with Incyte (INCY). Incyte shares were flat in premarket trading.

Apple slipped 1.4%. News reports said Chief Executive Tim Cook would be deposed in Qualcomm’s (QCOM) suit alleging the iPhone maker used inaccurate information to provoke regulators to investigate Qualcomm. Investors are also expecting an update at some point to Apple’s capital return strategy, that could include a boost to its buyback and dividend. Apple’s stock is set for its third straight open back above its 50-day moving average, and up nearly 3% for the week following a three-day advance. Qualcomm shares slipped 1.2%.

Data storage gear maker NetApp tumbled more than 4% in early action. Late Thursday, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company approved an additional $4 billion buyback of company shares, and doubled its quarterly dividend to 40 cents. The stock is up 39% from an October breakout, testing support just below an early March high.

Chip developer Xilinx (XLNX) shed 3.8% ahead of the open. JPMorgan downgraded the stock to underperform, from neutral, and lowered its price target to 68, from 73. The premarket loss implies the stock could open below its 200-day moving average.

Global Stock Markets Mixed

In China, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index reopened after a one-day holiday to post a 1.1% gain. The Shanghai exchange remained closed on holiday and will reopen Monday. In Japan, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 slipped 0.4% to end the week with a 0.5% gain.

Europe’s stock markets showed moderate gains ahead of the U.S. jobs report. Frankfurt’s DAX, recently the most volatile among the region’s leading benchmarks, dipped 0.5% near midday.

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