* Chicago area manufacturing data due
* Air Products shares up after Ackman confirms stake
* Futures: Dow off 14 pts, S&P off 0.20 pt, Nasdaq up 0.50
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, July 31 U.S. stock index futures were
little changed on Wednesday after data showed
stronger-than-anticipated jobs growth in the private sector and
accelerated momentum by the economy.
But the reports failed to move the needle on futures as
traders focused on a much-anticipated statement from the Federal
Reserve that could spell out the U.S. central bank's stimulus
roadmap for the coming months.
The Fed likely will decide at the end of its policy meeting
on Wednesday to continue buying bonds at an $85 billion monthly
pace, but its statement will be combed for indications on when
and by how much it could scale back its purchases as the
economic recovery takes hold.
The Fed's stimulus program is seen by many as one of the
main reasons for the stock market to have risen more than 18
percent so far this year.
U.S. economic growth, as measured by gross domestic product,
unexpectedly accelerated in the second quarter by 1.7 percent at
annual rate, the government said. Economists had expected a 1.0
In addition, private employers added 200,000 jobs in July,
according to the ADP National Employment Report, topping
economists' expectations and laying a firmer foundation for the
rest of the year that could bring the Fed closer to cutting back
"This obviously will increase the debate as to whether the
Fed will begin trimming (its purchases) sometime in September as
opposed to the end of the year or the beginning of the first
quarter of 2014," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at
Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
"The debate is going to be in favor of those thinking of the
S&P 500 futures edged up 0.20 point and were little
changed in terms of 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
fell 14 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 0.50
Air Products & Chemicals shares gained 4 percent
premarket after activist investor William Ackman said his
Pershing Square Capital Management has acquired a 9.8 percent
stake the industrial gas producer.
U.S. hospital chain Community Health Systems said on
Tuesday it reached a deal to buy Health Management Associates
for $3.9 billion, but quickly faced opposition from
major HMA investor Glenview Capital Management over the price.
Symantec shares rose 4.8 percent in premarket
trading a day after the maker of Norton anti-virus software
posted better-than-expected quarterly results as customers used
more of its security products in the wake of a series of hacking
With quarterly results in from 60 percent of the S&P 500
companies, 67.4 percent have exceeded earnings expectations - in
line with the average beat over the last four quarters. About 55
percent of companies have topped revenue expectations, more than
the 48 percent of revenue beats in the past four earnings
seasons but below the historical average, Thomson Reuters data