UPDATE 1-US STOCKS-Futures flat as investors look to labor market data

Thu Sep 5, 2013 8:13am EDT

* Data could provide clues on timing of Fed easing

* Syria in focus after resolution passes Senate committee

* Retailers report Aug sales, Costco tops forecasts

* Futures: Dow up 6 pts, dn S&P 0.1 pt, Nasdaq up 3.25 pts

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, Sept 5 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were little changed Thursday, as investors were reluctant to make big bets following steep gains in the previous session, and ahead of data that could provide a clue on the timing of changes to monetary policy.

Geopolitical concerns will remain in view after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee backed a resolution for military strikes against Syria in retaliation for a possible chemical weapons attack against civilians. Market movement has recently been driven by the likelihood of a Western-led strike, with investors especially focused on any possible impact on oil supplies. Crude oil rose 0.5 percent, extending its gains over the past two weeks. [ID: nL6N0H02J0]

The ADP national employment report, to be released at 8:15 a.m. EDT (1215 GMT), is expected to show 180,000 private sector jobs were added in August, down from 200,000 last month. Weekly jobless claims, due at 8:30 a.m., are seen dipping by 1,000 to 330,000 in the latest week.

"We've got a wait and see attitude ahead of the data, which isn't surprising given the terrific day we had yesterday," said Art Hogan, managing director at Lazard Capital Markets in New York. "While I'm not expecting any big moves ahead of tomorrow's data, it is a positive that we're not giving up any of our recent gains right now."

The data will be examined for insight into the strength of the labor market going into Friday's closely watched payroll report, and also for clues about when the U.S. Federal Reserve might begin to ease its accommodative monetary policies, which have been credited with fueling the market's gains in 2013. While many investors expect stimulus to slow from September, weak data could spur the central bank to delay any change to policy.

Ahead of the start of the Group of 20 summit, Russia and China warned that an end to the U.S. Fed's stimulus program could have a negative impact on the global economy. [ID: nL6N0H10WS]

S&P 500 futures fell 0.1 point but remained slightly 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 rose 6 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 3.25 points.

* In a positive sign of near-term upward momentum, the S&P 500 closed above its 100-day moving average for the first time since Aug. 26 on Wednesday. It also closed above its 14-day moving average for the first time since Aug. 8.

Retail stocks will be in focus as the group reports its August sales data. Costco Wholesale Corp reported same-store sales that beat expectations despite lower fuel prices. [ID: nL4N0H11MV]

Astex Pharmaceuticals rose 3.4 percent to $8.55 before the bell after Otsuka Pharmaceutical agreed to buy the company for $886 million. [ID: nL4N0H11BD]

Microsoft Corp said late Wednesday a jury had decided in its favor in the second of two trials in federal court concerning Motorola Mobility's licensing of so-called standard, essential patents used in Microsoft products. Shares of the Dow component rose 0.4 percent in premarket trading. [ID: nL2N0H101Z]

Boeing raised its 20-year outlook for Chinese airplane demand by 6 percent, citing growing demand for single-aisle and small, wide-body planes as travel within Asia-Pacific surges.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that the U.S. government was unlikely to block Chinese meat company Shuanghui International's $4.7 billion deal to buy Smithfield Foods Inc on national security grounds.

U.S. stocks rose for a second day on Wednesday, with car companies among the biggest gainers following strong August sales data.

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