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U.S. government debt yields were higher Thursday after the House of Representatives approved a budget, the first step toward tax reform. Investors also digested a slew of speeches from U.S. central bankers.
The House narrowly passed a $4.1 trillion budget on Thursday, formally initiating a process that Republicans hope will result in the enactment of major tax reform later this year.
By passing a budget resolution through both GOP-controlled chambers, Republicans would trigger a legislative process known as reconciliation, during which they could pass a sweeping tax reform bill with a simple majority of 51 votes in the Senate, instead of the usual 60-vote requirement.
News out of the U.S. central bank also dominated sentiment Thursday, as a number of officials from the U.S. Federal Reserve spoke during the day.
In Missouri, San Francisco Fed President John Williams delivered the morning keynote address at the Community Banking in the 21st Century Research and Policy Conference in St. Louis.
Williams said he does not need to see inflation move higher to support another interest rate increase this year as long as other economic data points to continued economic strength, according to Reuters.
"To me that is not as important as collecting all the signals," Williams told reporters when asked if he needed to see current weak inflation move higher before supporting another rate increase.
In Austin, Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker spoke at the Investing in America's Workforce Capstone conference during the morning.
"Until we see some other changes on the fiscal side of the house, we're not going to move that growth rate too much," Harker said CNBC in an interview on "Squawk Box. "
Harker said GDP growth will be "slightly above 2" percent until more details emerge from the final version of the GOP tax overhaul.
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, but Hurricanes Harvey and Irma continued to impact the data, making it difficult to get a clear picture of the labor market, according to Reuters.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 260,000 for the week ended Sept. 30, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
Domestically, the House is expected to vote on its fiscal budget for 2018 on Thursday, which will keep the topic of tax reform up at the front of investors' minds.
In commodities, oil prices posted gains during early trade, as expectations materialized over the possibility of Saudi Arabia and Russia extending their production cuts; however, prices were capped due to persisting glut concerns.
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