Wall Street futures gain ahead of payrolls

By @ibtimes on

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a slightly higher open for Wall Street on Friday, adding to hefty gains on Thursday, with futures for the S&P 500, Dow Jones futures and Nasdaq futures all up around 0.2 percent by 4.20 a.m. EST.

Recent upbeat economic data, including encouraging weekly jobless claims and robust private-sector hiring, reinforced confidence of a strong reading for closely watched U.S. non-farm payrolls data, due at 1330 GMT.

The report was forecast to show a rise of 185,000 jobs in February, a nine-month high, with some investors expecting a reading above 200,000 on growing optimism over the pace of recovery in the labor market.

The unemployment rate, however, was seen ticking up to 9.1 percent as previously discouraged jobseekers return to the labor force.

Wall Street posted its biggest one-day gain in three months on Thursday, but weak volumes cast doubts over the sustainability of the rally.

The put-to-call ratio in the options market also did not change much as traders continued to hedge against a potential drop in the market.

Investors will continue to watch developments in Libya, after Brent crude futures rose $1 a barrel to almost $116 on doubts a Venezuelan peace proposal would resolve Libya's crisis and as reports surfaced of fresh air strikes in the North African country.

In company news, sources said European planemaker EADS was set to concede defeat in a decade-long battle with U.S. rival Boeing by deciding not to appeal a $30 billion U.S. tanker contract, in a move that should avert transatlantic tension that flared up after the pentagon revoked an earlier contract with EADS in 2009.

Chrysler is in advanced talks with banks on refinancing about $7 billion in government debt and establishing a credit facility to help clear the way for an initial public offering this year.

NYSE Euronext's derivatives trading volumes increased 8 percent on the year in February, the exchange group said, with an average of nearly 9 million contracts changing hands globally each day.

U.S. equipment maker Caterpillar plans to build a new manufacturing plant in Indonesia worth from $500 million to $1 billion of investment, Indonesia's investment chief said on Friday.

In Europe, the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of top shares was up 0.7 percent in early trade, with automakers among the top gainers on hopes of improving demand.

(Reporting by Harpreet Bhal; Editing by Dan Lalor)

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