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Stock futures edge up as White House talks tariff exemptions

By Sruthi Shankar

By Sruthi Shankar

(Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures edged higher on Thursday as investors were encouraged by signs that President Donald Trump's proposed hefty import tariffs on steel and aluminum could exclude some key trading partners.

Markets on Wednesday fell sharply on Wednesday following the exit of Trump's chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, but recovered after White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump's plan will include "potential carve-outs for Mexico and Canada based on national security, and possibly other countries as well."

Trump is expected to sign a document to establish the tariffs by 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, a source told Reuters.

The plan has faced stiff resistance from most of its key partners with China saying on Thursday it "will respond as necessary" in the event of a trade war with the United States.

By 7:01 a.m. ET on Thursday, Dow e-minis <1YMc1> were up 6 points. S&P 500 e-minis <ESc1> rose 5.25 points and Nasdaq 100 e-minis <NQc1> were up 29.5 points.

Since Trump's tariff announcement last Thursday, the manufacturing-heavy Dow <.DJI> has posted losses for three days.

Express Scripts <ESRX.O> soared 18 percent after health insurer Cigna <CI.N> agreed to buy the pharmacy benefits manager for $54-billion deal. Cigna shares slipped 5 percent.

The European Central Bank's policy announcement is being closely watched for details on how fast the central bank will end its 2.5 trillion euro stimulus program.

Among economic data, a Labor Department report is expected to show initial jobless claims rose to 220,000 from 210,000 in the week ended March 3.

A keenly-awaited reading on jobs and wage is expected on Friday.

Investors are worried that higher wages could lead to faster interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve and make borrowing expensive. The average hourly earnings is expected to slow to 2.8 percent in February on an annualized basis, from 2.9 percent in January.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)