Stock index futures eased on Friday after a three-day Wall Street rally and ahead of a closely watched monthly jobs report, which is expected to show moderate gains after last month's flat reading.
Economists forecast that 60,000 jobs were created in September, compared with no new jobs in August. Some tentative signs of improvement in recent economic numbers have helped calm fears the global economy was slipping back into recession.
The market is on hold, obviously waiting for the unemployment number, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York. Any surprises above and beyond market expectations, then the market might respond to that.
The Labor Department release its non-farm payrolls report at 8:30 EDT. The unemployment rate is seen unchanged at 9.1 percent.
S&P 500 futures were down 3.6 points and 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 32 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 7.50 points.
Cardillo said investors would also be firmly focused on Europe. Optimism the region was on track in resolving its sovereign debt crisis helped drive a 6 percent rally in the S&P 500 over the last three sessions.
It's all about the employment data and hopes for more good news from Europe over the weekend, Cardillo said.
Germany and France were split ahead of crucial summit talks on Sunday over how to strengthen shaky European banks and fight financial market contagion to prepare for a possible Greek default, diplomats said.
On Thursday. the European Central Bank said it was ready to buy bonds to provide longer-term cheap money for European lenders in need of funding.
From a technical perspective, the S&P 500 remains in a downtrend. The index has been trapped in a range in the past few months, deteriorating into lower lows. The index's wide range is seen from about 1,100 to 1,250.
Analysts see the next important resistance level for the S&P 500 at 1,180, the index's 50-day moving average. The S&P closed at 1,164.97 on Thursday.
Investors have been focused on weakness in Europe's banking system. Credit agency Moody's cut its ratings on British banks Lloyds Banking Group Plc
The sentiment seems to have shifted from despair to optimism, yet you can feel the nervousness just under the surface and it could all change on a dime, wrote Kenneth Polcari, a floor trader at ICAP Equities. You need just one bad economic report or one negative headline out of Europe and boom.
Early Friday, the FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of top European shares edged up 0.2 percent after two days of sharp gains. The European Central Bank offered on Thursday to help struggling banks. Japan's Nikkei average <.N225> closed up 1 percent.
The Bank of Japan kept monetary policy unchanged on Friday, holding off from tapping its depleted policy arsenal for now although fears of a global recession and Europe's debt crisis were clouding the outlook for the fragile economy.
The Commerce Department releases wholesale inventories for August at 10 a.m. EDT. Economists predicted inventories to rise 0.5 percent versus a 0.8 percent increase in July.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)