US STOCKS-Futures edge lower ahead of key jobs report

Fri Mar 9, 2012 7:59am EST

Related Topics

* Non-farm payrolls forecast at 210,000

* Texas Instruments falls after outlook

* China consumer inflation slows to 20-month low

* Futures off: S&P 0.5 pt, Dow 5 pts, Nasdaq 2 pts

By Edward Krudy

NEW YORK, March 9 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures edged lower on Friday after their strongest two-day gain in nearly three months and ahead of a report likely to show U.S. employment grew solidly for a third straight month.

The U.S. Labor Department releases its February payrolls report at 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT). Economists forecast 210,000 non-farm jobs were created during the month, compared with 243,0000 in January. The unemployment rate is seen unchanged at 8.3 percent.

Greece averted the immediate risk of an uncontrolled default, winning strong acceptance of its bond swap offer to private creditors. The market had run up for two days on hopes of success.

"It is a pure case of the market having discounted the fact there would be a successful Greek debt swap," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital. "Now we turn our focus to the big number of the month, the employment stat in the United States."

Cardillo said a strong report, that is better than forecast, would set the S&P 500 to move up into the 1,385-1,400 range next week. The index closed at 1365.91 on Thursday.

S&P 500 futures fell 0.5 of a point but were just 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 were down 5 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 2 points.

Exactly three years ago the S&P 500 posted a 12-year closing low at 676.53 during the height of the financial crisis. The index has more than doubled since then, although it stalled last year before resuming a rally in 2012.

Shares in Texas Instruments Inc fell2.3 percent after the bell on Thursday after the chipmaker said revenue growth would resume in the second quarter, signaling an end to the inventory correction that dogged it last year.

Aeropostale Inc fell 2.4 percent in late trading on Thursday after the teen clothing retailer forecast quarterly profits below estimates and reported lower fourth-quarter results.

China's annual consumer inflation slowed to a 20-month low in February, and factory output and retail sales also cooled, giving policymakers ample room to further loosen monetary policy.

Carnival Corp, the world's biggest cruise operator, is due to release first-quarter earnings. In January, the Miami-based company said the Costa Concordia catastrophe would wipe up to $175 million from profit this year . The shares fell 0.7 percent to $30.74.

General Motors Co and Italian carmaker Fiat talked briefly about merging their European businesses earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources.

The U.S. Justice Department warned Apple Inc and five major U.S. publishers it plans to sue them, alleging they colluded to raise the price of electronic books, a source told Reuters.

European stocks traded in a narrow range Friday, last trading up 0.02 percent.

FILED UNDER: