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Dow Futures Down 300 Pts; Nuclear Power Station, Payrolls Report in Focus


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By Peter Nurse — U.S. stocks are seen opening lower Friday after Russian troops bombarded and then captured Ukraine’s largest nuclear power station, intensifying the conflict ahead of the release of key U.S. employment data.

At 7 AM ET (1200 GMT), the Dow Futures contract was down 300 points, or 0.9%, S&P 500 Futures traded 37 points, or 0.9%, lower and Nasdaq 100 Futures dropped 105 points, or 0.8%.

The main Wall Street indices have been roiled over the last week following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The conflict shows few signs of abating with Russian forces shelling key civilian infrastructures, including in Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv in the northeast.

In a new development Friday, Russian forces seized the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, after setting parts of the complex ablaze during an intense bombardment.

Fears of an environmental disaster have largely been allayed, as U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said there were no indications of elevated radiation levels at the plant. But the plant provides more than a fifth of total electricity generated in Ukraine and its capture adds to worries the conflict will cause a massive disruption to global energy supplies.

Away from eastern Europe, the main focus Friday will be on the closely watched monthly U.S. jobs report, which is expected to show continued strengthening in the labor market for February.

The data are released at 8:30 AM ET (1330 GMT) and are expected to show a rise of 400,000 payrolls, with the unemployment rate falling to 3.9% and growth in average hourly earnings dropping to 0.5% for the month.

On Thursday, the weekly jobless claims report showed applications for unemployment insurance fell to the lowest level since the start of the year, and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell confirmed he was prepared to raise interest rates by 25 basis points later this month during the second day of his semiannual report to Congress.

In corporate news, Gap (NYSE:GPS) stock surged premarket after the clothes retailer projected sales to grow in the current year, while Costco (NASDAQ:COST) stock fell after the discount chain reported a slowdown in February sales, warning of container delays, higher labor and freight costs, and chip shortages.

Broadcom (NASDAQ:AVGO) will also be in the spotlight after the chip manufacturer beat expectations in its fiscal first quarter, helped by continued investment in next generation technology.

Oil prices traded higher Friday on the news of the nuclear plant attack, which makes it likelier that Europe and the U.S. will close the loophole in its current sanctions package that allows payment for energy supplies to continue uninterrupted. Russia is the world’s biggest energy exporter.

So far, the West has stopped short of targeting Russia’s oil and gas exports, but customers are largely steering clear of them anyway due to fears of becoming entangled in the sanctions.

By 7 AM ET, U.S. crude futures traded 2.5% higher at $110.34 a barrel, while the Brent contract rose 2.1% to $112.72. Both contracts climbed to multi-year highs on Thursday before a sharp pullback.

Additionally, gold futures rose 0.6% to $1,947.65/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.8% lower at 1.0977.

Dow Futures Down 300 Pts; Nuclear Power Station, Payrolls Report in Focus

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