Stock index futures edged lower on Wednesday as investors awaited a report on private-sector employment to assess the strength of recovery in the jobs market.
The ADP jobs report, due at 8:15 a.m. ET (1215 GMT), is forecast by a Reuters survey to show 40,000 private-sector jobs were created in March, against 20,000 lost in February. The data comes two days ahead of the highly anticipated U.S. nonfarm payrolls data due on Friday.
Other economic data for the day include the Chicago Purchasing Manager's Index at 9:45 a.m. (1345 GMT). Economists forecast a reading of 61 versus 62.6 in February.
U.S. factory orders for February will be released shortly after at 10:00 a.m. (1400 GMT). A rise of 0.5 percent is expected after a 1.7 percent increase in January.
We are getting one of the most important pieces of economic data in this cycle today. The market is pretty quiet now, but unless there is a major deviation from consensus, the numbers from Friday could be pretty much expected, said Arthur Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co in New York.
But we are in the counter intuitive timeframe where even if the numbers are too good, that is also concerning as it might trigger the Fed's move, he said.
S&P 500 futures fell 1.5 points and were below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures shed 11 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 3.5 points.
The S&P 500 <.SPX> is now up 73.4 percent from the March 2009 bottom and on track for a fourth straight quarterly gain. The index is also up 5.2 percent for the quarter so far, the Dow is up 4.6 percent and the Nasdaq is up 6.2 percent.
Friday's release of the government's nonfarm payrolls report for March is likely to give the stock market a fresh catalyst to brush up against 18-month highs. The expectation is that the labor market had a significant turnaround last month, according to economists. The stock market will be shut for the Good Friday holiday.
Late on Tuesday, Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher said the U.S. economic recovery is gathering speed as business activity picks up pace, despite lingering weakness in employment. The remarks suggested Fisher, a self-proclaimed inflation hawk whose tone had become rather dovish in recent months, was warming up to the idea of removing some of the heavy monetary policy accommodation applied by the Fed.
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(Reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)