In the U.S.: Stock futures rise slightly ahead of payrolls data

3 February 2012

Unemployment continues to lag behind other signs of growth in the U.S…economy still seen to have “advanced pretty far, pretty quickly.”

The government’s payrolls report, due at 8:30 a.m. EST is expected to show 150,000 jobs were added in January, down from 200,000 in December, which benefited from holiday hiring.

Economists expect the data to show that a trend of growth remains intact, while the unemployment rate is seen holding steady at a near three-year low of 8.5 percent.

Recent economic data suggesting a slow but steady economic recovery has helped fuel a rally in stocks, with the S&P 500 up 5.4 percent so far this year and over 23 percent since lows in October. Many analysts said equities were nearing a top, and that a weak report could spark a pullback.

“It seems like the economy is on the mend and is improving, but we need to see follow-through with employment data,” said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Banyan Partners LLC in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

“We’ve advanced pretty far, pretty quickly, and while there’s optimism it will continue, there are also a lot of pessimists who are ready to sell.”

S&P 500 futures rose 0.3 point and were above 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 added 6 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 9.5 points.

Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N) rose 3.1 percent to $19.19 in premarket trading after its first-quarterearnings beat expectations. Aon Corp (AON.N) also reported a higher-than-expected profit.

Earnings have been mixed, with fewer companies beating expectations than in recent quarters. However many technology names, including Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) and Apple Inc (AAPL.O), have posted blowout quarters.

In other economic news, December factory orders are seen rising 1.5 percent, while the Institute for Supply Management’s January non-manufacturing index is expected to come in at 53.0, a repeat of the revised December number. Both numbers are due at 10 a.m. EST.

Sentiment early Friday was underpinned by data that hinted the euro zone may yet avoid recession, boosting European shares.

Investors largely took a wait-and-see approach on Thursday as U.S. stocks ended little changed ahead of the payrolls report.


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