Stock index futures were slightly higher after a four-day slide as investors keenly awaited the government's employment report for key insight into the state of the economy.
Investors were bracing for weak data on U.S. employment at 8:30 a.m., with non-farm payrolls forecast to have contracted for the first time this year as thousands of temporary government jobs for census workers ended, though private-sector hiring probably picked up, according to a Reuters survey.
There has been a continuous lowering of expectations on this data, going from moderately positive to flat to negative to very negative. Everyone has seemed to talk this down so anything that is not too terrible...might even be able to spark a relief rally, said Barry Ritholtz, director of equity research at Fusion IQ in New York.
With mounting fears of a double-dip recession, the employment report will be closely watched for fresh insight on the strength of the U.S. economic recovery. A recent flurry of sluggish U.S. economic data and sovereign debt worries in Europe knocked down global equities while boosting the appeal of safe-haven U.S. Treasuries.
S&P 500 futures were up 2 points and in line with 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 gained 5 points.
Australia ended a damaging dispute with global miners on Friday by dumping its super profits tax for a lower resources rent tax backed by big miners, clearing a major hurdle to call an early election. The news helped lift European stocks and mining shares such as Rio Tinto and Xstrata were one of the top gainers.
Biotech shares will be in the spotlight. French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis SA is preparing an acquisition in the United States that may be worth $20 billion or more, Bloomberg reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. A Sanofi-Aventis spokesman declined to comment.
British power supply systems maker Chloride has recommended a $1.5 billion takeover by U.S. conglomerate Emerson Electric , bringing to an end a long-running bid battle.
Dell Inc said late Thursday that it will buy privately held Scalent, a software company that specializes in making data center infrastructures more efficient.
Major indexes closed lower for a fourth straight day on Thursday after suffering their worst quarter since late 2008.
(Reporting by Angela Moon, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)