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Stock futures are flat as S&P 500 sits at record, Wall Street gets set to kick off second half of 2021

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U.S. stock futures were steady in overnight trading on Wednesday as investors gear up for the second half of 2021.

Dow futures rose 45 points. S&P 500 futures gained 0.1% and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 0.05%.

On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 210 points, helped by a 2.7% pop in Walmart. The S&P 500 registered a gain of 0.13% to close at a fresh record of 4,297.50.

The Nasdaq Composite was the relative underperformer, dipping 0.2% as Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet closed lower.

The major averages closed out a strong first half of 2021 and second quarter on Wednesday.

For the year, the Dow is up 12.7%, hovering about 1.7% below its all-time high. The S&P 500 rallied 14.4% in the first half of 2021 and the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 12.5%.

The S&P 500 notched its fifth positive month in a row, rising 2.2% in June. The broad index also posted its best first half since 2019.

“Better news on Covid, vaccinations, re-openings, economic growth, and earnings fueled the advance.  Nearly equal gains were achieved in both quarters by a rotation in leadership allowing broad participation,” Leuthold Group chief investment strategist Jim Paulsen told CNBC.

The Russell 2000 rose more than 17% in the first six months of the year amid a strong rotation into value stocks as the economy reopens from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Economic growth will likely stay strong in the balance of 2021 and the question will be how much inflation fears return, how much bond yields potentially resume their advance, and whether and how aggressively the Federal Reserve’s policy chatter becomes more hawkish,” Paulsen said.

“If inflation fears do calm further and bond yields remain lower for longer, expect growth and technology stocks to continue leading the stock market higher. However, should strong economic growth aggravate inflationary worries and again force bond yields higher, correction fears may intensify, and leadership should be centered among cyclical stock sectors, smaller cap stocks and even international stocks,” he added.

Strong first halves for the stock market historically bode well for the remainder of the year. Whenever there has been a double-digit gain in the first half, the Dow and S&P 500 have never ended that year with an annual decline, according to Refinitiv data going back to 1950.

The latest data on weekly jobless claims will be released Thursday at 8:30 a.m. ET. Economists polled by Dow Jones are expecting initial claims for unemployment totaled 390,000 last week, after totaling 411,000 for the week ended June 19.

The unemployment data comes one day ahead of Friday’s closely-watched jobs report. Economists expect 683,000 jobs were added in June, according to a Dow Jones survey.

Walgreens Boots Alliance posts quarterly results before the bell on Thursday.

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