Stock futures little changed ahead of data

 @ibtimes
on February 03 2010 7:56 AM

U.S. stock index futures were mostly flat on Wednesday, following two days of strong market gains and ahead of key jobs and services sector data expected to show the U.S. economy has continued to improve.

The ADP January employment report will be released at 8:15 a.m. EST. Economists forecast 30,000 jobs were lost last month in the private sector, fewer than the 84,000 in December. The report may give clues about the closely watched non-farm payrolls government report due Friday.

We're definitely looking for continued trends to show a mend to unemployment, and if hiring is beginning, that would be very positive, said Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in New York.

The market is consolidating after the recent comeback and waiting for some more earnings news.

S&P 500 futures fell 0.5 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 rose 11 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 2.25 points.

Time Warner Inc swung to a quarterly profit and posted higher revenues, courtesy of hit movies like Sherlock Holmes and The Hangover, and raised its dividend.

Shares of News Corp rose 5.8 percent to $13.50 in light premarket trading Wednesday, a day after the entertainment and media group also swung to a quarterly profit and topped expectations thanks to its blockbuster film Avatar and improved advertising sales. The company also raised its outlook and dividend.

The market has reset at a lower bar, and now we're seeing more positive reaction to earnings, Meckler said. The selloff provides better entry numbers to some stocks.

The S&P 500 fell more than 6 percent in the last three weeks of January, even as companies like Microsoft Corp had strong earnings reports.

Pfizer Inc fell 2 percent to $18.85 in premarketing trading after the world's biggest drugmaker said quarterly earnings rose but missed estimates and forecast full-year profit below expectations.

Cisco Systems Inc is expected to post results that could confirm a recovery in computer network spending.

Also on the data front, the Institute for Supply Management will release its January non-manufacturing index at 10 a.m. Economists look for a reading of 51.0, indicating an expansion in the services sector, versus 49.8 in December.

Bank of America Corp has approved more than $4 billion in 2009 compensation for its investment bankers and traders, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A major Chinese bank has raised mortgage rates in a sign the government's lending clampdown is rippling through the economy and could tame excessive growth.

U.S. stocks rallied for a second day on Tuesday as better-than-expected earnings and encouraging economic data calmed investors after a recent sell-off.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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