(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures edged higher on Friday ahead of a crucial jobs report and as China rolled out a stimulus plan to shore up its flagging economy.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., September 5, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

China’s central bank said it would reduce the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves, releasing a total of 900 billion yuan ($126.35 billion) in liquidity.

The Labor Department’s nonfarm payroll data is likely to show that the U.S. economy added 158,000 jobs in August, compared with a gain of 164,000 in July, according to a Reuters survey of economists.

The monthly report, due at 8:30 a.m ET, will be closely watched after a clutch of economic data from earlier this week provided mixed views on the U.S. economy amid the drama of a drawn-out trade war with China.

Data showing a contraction in U.S. factory activity in August dampened markets on Tuesday, but diffusing political tensions in Hong Kong and hopes of a de-escalation in U.S.-China trade tensions helped boost stocks to one-month highs later in the week.

Markets were also driven by strong growth in private payrolls and an accelerating services sector. The benchmark S&P 500 .SPX rose 1.3% on Thursday, closing just 1.75% away from its record high in July.

Analysts have said that weak jobs numbers could put more pressure on the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates by as much as 50-basis points in its mid-September meeting. Market participants are currently expecting a quarter percentage point cut.

At 7:08 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis 1YMcv1 were up 84 points, or 0.31%. S&P 500 e-minis EScv1 were up 8.75 points, or 0.29% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQcv1 were up 15.5 points, or 0.2%.

Investors will also keep a close eye on Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s speech at the University of Zurich, scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET, which could provide further hints on the monetary policy before the central bank goes into a quiet period ahead of its Sept. 17-18 meeting.

Among stocks, Marathon Oil (MRO.N) was down 1.8% after Goldman Sachs cut its price target on the stock. Facebook Inc (FB.O) also fell marginally following a Wall Street Journal report that state attorneys general are formally launching separate antitrust probes into the company.

Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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