Stock index futures dipped on Wednesday as investors braced for a private report on jobs that is a precursor to the closely watched government non-farm payrolls report Friday.
The U.S. ADP employment data is expected to show that private employers cut 73,000 jobs in December, versus 169,000 in November. The data is due at 8:15 a.m. EST.
Economists polled by Reuters forecast a decline of 8,000 in non-farm payrolls after a surprisingly small 11,000 drop in November. The unemployment rate is seen rising to 10.1 percent from 10 percent in November.
Investors will also watch the ISM non-manufacturing index due at 10:00 a.m. EST. Economists look for a reading of 50.5, up from November's 48.7, indicating expansion rather than contraction.
S&P 500 futures lost 4.6 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 fell 34 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures dropped 5.75 points.
At 2 p.m. EST, the Federal Open Market Committee will release minutes from its mid-December meeting.
U.S. retailers saw a strong finish to the 2009 holiday season, even though sales fell at apparel chains and department stores in December, according to MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse.
After the bell Tuesday, fertilizer producer Mosaic Co posted slightly lower-than-expected quarterly earnings, hurt by currency losses, and said improvement in the global economy would revive agricultural markets.
Kraft Foods Inc said 1.52 percent of Cadbury Plc shareholders have accepted its sweetened offer, but most shareholders were expected to see if Kraft will raise its bid before making a decision.
Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> said Wednesday it sold 21 percent more cars in China in 2009, compared with a year earlier, lagging rival General Motors' 67 percent gain.
Oil prices remained below $82 a barrel after unexpectedly bearish U.S. inventory data, ending a 9-day rally that contributed to a new year's rally in equities.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)