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Futures point to a higher open as Wall Street wraps up August

Stocks set for more gains in last-minute surge

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Thursday, as investors geared up for a slew of economic data, while keeping a close eye on oil and the political space. Thursday also market the last day of trading in August.

Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 55 points, while S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures advanced 5.5 points and 12.75 points, respectively.

Entering Thursday's session, the Dow was on track to post a slight monthly gain, while the Nasdaq was up 0.3 percent in August. The S&P, however, was down 0.5 percent in the time period.

On Thursday, investors were greeted by a cluster of new data.

Investors need to understand that volatility is inevitable, and attempting to navigate around it is risky.
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Weekly jobless claims totaled 236,000, matching estimates, while the so-called core personal consumption expenditures increased 1.4 percent in July on a year-over-year basis. The core PCE is the Federal Reserve's preferred measure of inflation, and it's lagging the central bank's 2 percent target.

Pending home sales data are set for release at 10 a.m. ET.

Meanwhile, Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan is expected to be in Texas on Thursday, taking part in a panel at the NASCO and Dallas County Community College District's Workforce Forum.

Sticking with the U.S., Hurricane Harvey continues to weave uncertainty into markets, as investors continue to debate how much of an impact the natural disaster will have on the economy and certain sectors including energy and insurance.

Gasoline futures for September delivery hit $2 per gallon, while crude prices remained stable.

Meanwhile, geopolitics will continue to remain a dominant theme, after markets showed signs of turbulence earlier this week as tensions rose between the U.S. and North Korea.

On Tuesday, it was revealed that North Korea had fired a ballistic missile which passed over Japan – a move which was met with criticism from leaders worldwide.

However, tensions have eased somewhat, after President Donald Trump said that "all options were on the table" when it came to the future relationship between the Asian country and the West.

Yet on Wednesday, Trump took the conversation further on Twitter to state that "talking is not the answer" when commenting on resolving tensions with North Korea.

Elsewhere, Thursday will see the final day of the third round of Brexit negotiations in Brussels, where chief negotiators are set to deliver their statements on the progress of the talks between the European Union and the U.K.

Overseas, European stocks were trading higher in morning trade, while markets in Asia closed relatively mixed to higher. In the previous session, U.S. stocks closed in positive territory.

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