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

Business activity in the Midwest will be measured by the Chicago Purchasing Manager's Index issued at 9:45 a.m. ET (1345 GMT). Economists forecast a reading of 61 versus 62.6 in February.

U.S. factory orders for February are due at 10:00 a.m. ET (1400 GMT). Economists forecast a rise of 0.5 percent after a 1.7 percent increase in January.

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, while 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.

After the bell on Tuesday, manufacturer Honeywell International Inc raised its first-quarter profit outlook.

Quarterly earnings reports are expected from companies including Research In Motion Ltd , Rite Aid Corp and Micron Technology Inc . For details, see

Chevron Corp has won a three-year-old arbitration fight against Ecuador over a commercial dispute as it battles the country separately over an environmental claim against the company that could result in $27 billion in damages.

Baker Hughes Inc said late on Tuesday that it was finalizing an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice under which it would have to sell some assets as a condition for approval of its plan to buy smaller rival BJ Services Co for $8.4 billion.

Exxon Mobil Corp Chief Executive Rex Tillerson said that the company's proposed $27 billion acquisition of U.S. oil and gas company XTO Energy Inc Inc. will not add to earnings for a couple of years.

Oil traded near $83 a barrel, heading for its fifth consecutive quarterly gain as markets awaited U.S. crude inventory data later in the day.

(Reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)