Wall Street ekes out gains after month of struggles

Wall Street pushed higher today ahead of new inflation and jobs data that may influence the Federal Reserve and its policy decisions regarding benchmark interest rates, the Associated Press reports.

Futures for the Dow Jones industrials rose 0.5%, and the S&P 500 advanced 0.2% as more corporate earnings reports trickled in after the bell Wednesday.

Markets are trying to claw back losses on the last day of what’s been a brutal month. Even with a hot streak the past two weeks, the Dow, S&P, and Nasdaq are all still down close to 2% in August. It would be just the second down month for the Nasdaq this year.

Monthly employment data for August are due out Friday following reports this week that hiring is cooling. Official data Tuesday showed U.S. hiring has slowed, another possible data point in favor of the Fed holding steady on interest rates that are at a 22-year high. Fed officials have said rate decisions will be guided by readings on hiring, inflation, and consumer spending.

In equities trading, Dollar General fell more than 16% in premarket after the discount retailer missed Wall Street’s sales and profit targets and slashed its outlook for the rest of the year. Software company Salesforce, the owner of the Slack communications platform, rallied about 6% in premarket after it topped analysts’ second-quarter sales and profit expectations. The online pet store Chewy tumbled around 5% early today after initially rallying when the company reported sales and profit that beat analyst forecasts on Wednesday afternoon.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude oil gained 67 cents to $82.30 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 47 cents on Wednesday to $81.63. Brent crude, the price basis for international oil trading, advanced 64 cents to $85.88 per barrel in London.

The dollar declined to 145.83 yen from Wednesday’s 146.20 yen.