U.S. stock futures were firmly in the green on Friday morning as investors anticipated another month of trading and new data releases from Washington on the state of the labor market.

Contracts on the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average each climbed 0.4% in first-hour trading. Nasdaq Composite futures advanced 0.5%. The moves come after Wall Street’s most-watched indexes all posted their worst quarter since the start of 2020.

Investors should keep a close eye on the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report on Friday, providing the most up-to-date snapshot of the strength of hiring in the U.S. economy. Consensus economists expect nonfarm payrolls to rise by 490,000 for March, according to Bloomberg data, slowing from February’s gain of 678,000 but still marking an increase well above pre-pandemic trends. . The unemployment rate is expected to fall to 3.7%, the lowest since February 2020.

Stocks advance in April after a volatile month and quarter of trading. The S&P 500 and Dow each fell more than 4.5% in the first three months of 2022, closing their worst quarters — and first quarterly declines — since the first quarter of 2020. The Nasdaq Composite saw the most sharp decline, losing 9.1% over the past three months, as investors turned away from tech and growth stocks that led the market higher last year.

April has always been a strong month for stocks and has actually produced a positive return for the S&P 500 for 15 of the past 16 years, according to Ryan Detrick of LPL Financial. This time, however, stocks face a variety of headwinds that could upset this historically positive seasonality.

Namely, a confluence of concerns about the geopolitical and macro backdrop contributed to stocks’ worst quarterly performance in two years, and has yet to be fully resolved. Geopolitical risks have been high since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, raising the specter of further grunts over global supply chains already struggling to recover from pandemic-era disruptions. A widespread spike in prices, and in particular oil and energy prices, has further stoked concerns about the resilience of the consumer – the main driver of the national economy – going forward. And the Federal Reserve began a long process of raising interest rates and tightening financial conditions in a market that had grown accustomed to accommodative monetary policy since 2020.

“I think investors are very happy the quarter is over. It was tough. Obviously inflation was bad until… the end of the quarter,” said Robert Cantwell, Upholdings portfolio manager, at Yahoo Finance Live on Thursday. . “And in all likelihood, the next four to six weeks will probably continue to be bad news as inflation is persistent, and we are still seeing record growth rates compared to the first four months of last year. “

“Having said that, as you get into the second half of the next quarter, you could see a scenario where growth rates start to pick up again while inflation moderates, and that has the potential to bring back a lot of bulls in the market,” he added. .

LPL Financial points out that corporate earnings may be another driver of the latest rally in stocks. Even in the face of war in Eastern Europe and decades-high inflation, earnings have held up and estimates of S&P 500 earnings per share over the next four quarters are higher in March. Although narrow at 1.5%, the positive forecast is significant under the circumstances – especially compared to how other countries have fared. Inflation is the source of the largest corporate profits, as companies enjoy greater pricing power as they pass on higher costs to customers.

“Thanks to energy independence, the trajectory of U.S. corporate earnings has been unaffected by rising energy costs and high inflation so far,” noted Jeffrey Buchbinder, financial equity strategist at LPL, adding that conversely, earnings forecasts in international markets fell in March. “The profit outlook in the United States is the envy of the world right now.”

Elsewhere on the corporate front, favorite GameStop revealed in a Form 8-K filing with the SEC after the bell on Thursday that the video game retailer will seek approval for a stock split at its next meeting of shareholders. shareholders. GME follows a growing list of big companies – Alphabet, Amazon, Tesla – in what could be ‘the summer of stock splits’. Stock splits are a corporate action taken to improve trading liquidity and make stocks more affordable without affecting market capitalization. GME rallied as much as 20% in extended trading to hit a 4-month high of over $200 per share following the news.

7:14 a.m. ET Thursday: Futures charge more to kick off April trading

Here are the key developments in futures trading ahead of Friday’s open:

  • S&P 500 Futures Contracts (ES=F): +22.00 points (+0.49%) to 4,552.75

  • Dow futures (JM=F): +172.00 points (+0.50%) to 34,790.00

  • Nasdaq futures contracts (NQ=F): +80.00 points (+0.45%) to 14,948.75

  • Raw (CL=F): +$0.14 (+0.14%) at $100.14 per barrel

  • Gold (CG=F): -$21.90 (-1.12%) at $1,932.10 per ounce

  • 10-year cash flow (^TNX): 0.00 bp for a yield of 2.3270%

6:12 p.m. ET Thursday: Stock futures open slightly higher

Here’s where major stock index futures opened on Thursday night:

  • S&P 500 Futures Contracts (ES=F): +12.5 points (+0.28%) to 4,543.25

  • Dow futures (JM=F): +100 points (+0.29%) to 34,718.00

  • Nasdaq futures contracts (NQ=F): +51.75 points (+0.35%) to 14,920.50

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MARCH 28: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 28, 2022 in New York City. After a positive week for stocks, the Dow Industrial Average lost more than 100 points in morning trading. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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