Stock index futures were little changed on Friday ahead of the key monthly payrolls report that will give investors insight on the state of the ailing labor market.
The August employment report is due at 8:30 a.m. EDT, with economists forecasting 100,000 jobs lost in the month, compared with 131,000 in July. The unemployment rate is seen at 9.6 percent versus 9.5 percent in the prior month.
The nonfarm payrolls were likely affected by a combination of factors, including a reluctance by firms to add staff, relentless layoffs at cash-strapped state and local governments, and the fading boost from U.S. Census Bureau hiring.
We've priced in pretty significant downward revisions and any glimmers of hope will produce upward movement in the market, said Jamie Cox, managing partner of Harris Financial Group in Colonial Heights, Virginia.
People have already planned for the absolute Armageddon scenario, and anything that is remotely better produces a 'thank goodness' rally.
S&P 500 futures slipped 1.2 points and were slightly 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 gained 4 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures dipped 1 point.
After a dismal August that saw the S&P 500 drop 4.7 percent, Wall Street started September with two consecutive winning sessions on better-than-expected economic data.
But trading volume has been tepid ahead of the extended U.S. Labor Day holiday weekend.
Other data on tap for Friday includes the Institute for Supply Management's services sector report.
Campbell Soup Co
Take-Two Interactive Inc's
Celldex Therapeutics Inc
On the M&A front, Canada's Goldcorp Inc
European shares rose Friday, touching a three-week high ahead of the U.S. non-farm payroll data as investors hope the global recovery is still intact, with technology stocks boosted by takeover talk.
Asian stocks squeezed higher Friday, but gains were tentative ahead of the U.S. data.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)