* ADP employment report comes in below expectations
* Zynga rallies, to offer casino games in Britain
* Dow down 5 pts, S&P up 0.4 pts, Nasdaq up 1.75 pt
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, April 3 U.S. stock index futures were
poised to open little changed on Wednesday as investors brushed
off a weak reading on private sector employment and the S&P 500
remained within striking distance of an all-time intraday high.
Investors expect market movements to be slight ahead of the
release Friday of the closely watched nonfarm payrolls report,
with few major trading catalysts before then. The S&P has gained
less than 0.1 percent so far this week.
Futures were little changed despite the latest ADP National
Employment Report, which showed 158,000 private sector jobs were
added in March, far less than economists had expected. The
February report was revised upward by 39,000.
"People aren't worried about employment compared to the
overall macro outlook, and they have a general idea that the
economy is improving," said Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst
at John Thomas Financial in New York. "That should allow us to
The S&P has been near its record level of 1,576.09 for the
past several sessions, and inched to within three points of it
on Tuesday before pulling back, though it ended at a new closing
The March read for the Institute for Supply Management's
services index, due at 10:00 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT), is seen at
55.8, down from 56.0 in the previous month.
While data has largely been positive and helped to propel
the equity market in the first quarter, a few disappointments
have made investors cautious. The ISM manufacturing index on
Monday came in below expectations.
"Some data has indicated softening, but things should remain
quiet until Friday," Kaufman said.
S&P 500 futures rose 0.4 point, less than 0.1
percent, though it was 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 slipped 5 points and Nasdaq
100 futures rose 1.75 point.
The S&P 500 has advanced more than 10 percent this year, and
last week, broke above its 2007 closing high, a level it
exceeded on Tuesday. The Dow first broke above its 2007 record
on March 5.
In company news, Zynga Inc surged 11 percent to
$3.40 in premarket trading after the company said it would begin
offering poker and casino-style games in Britain in partnership
with Bwin.party Digital Entertainment.
ConAgra Foods Inc fell 1.6 percent to $34.98 before
the bell. The company reported third-quarter earnings that fell
57 percent even as revenue grew.
Monsanto Co rose 0.4 percent to $104 in premarket
trading after reporting earnings that beat expectations and
raising its full-year profit forecast.
Verizon Communications Inc ruled out a full takeover
of Vodafone , turning the focus yet again to
whether the two telecom giants can do a deal over their Verizon
Wireless joint venture.
U.S.-listed shares of Vodafone fell 2.9 percent to $28.56 in
premarket trading while Dow component Verizon was off 0.4
percent at $49.30.
Issues in the euro zone will continue to be in focus a day
after Cyprus concluded a bailout deal. The plan, which still
requires ratification, would mean the country receives a 10
billion euro loan and that it has until 2018 to carry out
measures to shore up its finances. The country's finance
minister resigned after concluding the deal.
While investors have largely used any market decline as a
buying opportunity, the situation in Cyprus has been a major
source of market uncertainty in recent weeks.
U.S. stocks rose on Tuesday, lifted by healthcare stocks,
after a government decision on payment rates. Strong factory
orders data also added to the positive tone.