Wall Street was poised for a lower open on Wednesday after a report on private-sector employment in March dented hopes of a stronger economic recovery in the United States, and a rating downgrade of Greek banks heightened concerns about the debt-laden country.
The ADP jobs report showed U.S. private employers shed 23,000 jobs this month, missing expectations for a rise of 40,000 jobs.
Investors put more weight on the report this week as the U.S. stock market will be closed on Friday for the Good Friday holiday when the highly anticipated U.S. nonfarm payrolls data is out.
The expectation was that the labor market had a significant turnaround last month, according to economists.
The market had gotten pretty ramped up about a decent payrolls (figure) in March, and this is curbing the enthusiasm for that number, said John Canally, investment strategist and economist for LPL Financial in Boston.
The nonfarm payroll (estimate) has been revised up almost steadily for the last couple weeks, and this will certainly stop that and turn that back around.
Futures also turned lower after Moody's Investors Service downgraded five banks in Greece on weakened financial strength as the country struggles with its deficit.
Investors still await a batch of economic data for signs of improvement in the economy, including the Chicago Purchasing Manager's Index due at 9:45 a.m. (1345 GMT). Economists forecast a reading of 61 versus 62.6 in February.
U.S. factory orders for February will be released at 10:00 a.m. (1400 GMT), with a Reuters poll expecting a rise of 0.5 percent after a 1.7 percent increase in January.
S&P 500 futures fell 5.1 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 shed 34 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 8.5 points.
The S&P 500 <.SPX> is up 73.4 percent from the March 2009 bottom and on track for a fourth straight quarterly gain. The index is also up 5.2 percent for the quarter so far, the Dow is up 4.6 percent and the Nasdaq is up 6.2 percent.
Late on Tuesday, Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher said the U.S. economic recovery is gathering speed as business activity picks up pace, despite lingering weakness in employment. The remarks suggested Fisher, a self-proclaimed inflation hawk whose tone had become rather dovish in recent months, was warming up to the idea of removing some of the heavy monetary policy accommodation applied by the Fed.
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(Reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)