Stock futures point to flat open after ADP report

  @ibtimes on January 06 2010 9:16 AM

Stock index futures suggested a flat open on Wednesday after a private report showed a slowdown in job losses, one day after the S&P 500 closed at a 15-month high.

The ADP Employer Services report, a precursor to the closely watched government non-farm payrolls report due Friday, showed U.S. private employers shed 84,000 jobs in December, down from the November number, but more than forecast.

Its a touch weaker, but it still shows continued improvement in terms of the number of job losses. The market won't pay much attention to it since it hasn't been very accurate in terms of predicting the monthly employment number. If this were a lot more off consensus it would matter, but not as it is now, said Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co in New York.

For the non-farm payrolls report due Friday, economists look for a loss of 8,000 non-farm jobs after a surprisingly small total of 11,000 job losses in November. The unemployment rate is seen at 10.1 percent versus 10 percent in November.

Investors may see more clues about an economic recovery when the ISM non-manufacturing index comes out 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 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 were unchanged and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 0.5 points.

At 2 p.m. EST, the Federal Open Market Committee will release minutes from its mid-December meeting.

In corporate news, Family Dollar Stores Inc gained 10.5 percent to $30.40 in premarket trading after the retailer reported first-quarter earnings that beat expectations.

Dow Chemical Co gained 2.2 percent to $31.15 after Barclays Capital upgraded the stock to overweight from equal-weight.

Kraft Foods Inc said 1.52 percent of Cadbury Plc's shareholders have accepted its sweetened offer, but most shareholders were expected to hold off to see if Kraft raises its bid. Kraft shares were down 1.8 percent to $28.25 in premarket trading.

Financial stocks may be influenced by what sources said will be U.S. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd's announcement that he will not seek re-election. The Connecticut Democrat has been dogged by questions over his financial industry connections and faces a tough re-election bid.

(Additional Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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