* S&P 500 on track for biggest weekly decline of 2013
* Jobs report on tap, weak payrolls could spark decline
* F5 Networks plunges in premarket after weak outlook
* Futures down: Dow 90 pts, S&P 10.7 pts, Nasdaq 20.5 pts
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, April 5 U.S. stock index futures fell
on Friday as investors looked to the release of nonfarm payrolls
data, which could be the latest in a series of reports pointing
to slowing growth.
Analysts expect 200,000 jobs to have been added in March,
down from 236,000 added in February. The unemployment rate is
expected to remain at 7.7 percent.
Equities have struggled for direction since the S&P 500
reached an all-time closing high earlier this week, and a
disappointing report may trigger a more protracted sell-off. The
S&P is down 0.6 percent so far this week, on track to be its
worst week of 2013.
Earlier this week, private sector employment and jobless
claims data indicated weakness in the labor market. Reports on
the manufacturing and services sectors also disappointed.
"The tone in markets could change if we get a positive
surprise, but the data we've seen leading up to this has people
expecting fewer job gains than we've been seeing," said Chris
Bertelsen, chief investment officer of Global Financial Private
Capital in Sarasota, Florida, adding the report could come in as
low as 100,000 jobs, half the estimate.
Investors will likely be looking for the payrolls report to
meet expectations. Stronger numbers than expected could raise
concerns that the Federal Reserve may slow its economic stimulus
programs sooner than anticipated.
Central bank actions around the world have boosted equities
thus far this year, and lifted the S&P about 9.4 percent. On
Thursday, Wall Street rose after the Bank of Japan announced
aggressive policies to jump-start its economy.
S&P 500 futures fell 10.7 points and were below 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 sank 90
points and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 20.5 points.
If the S&P closes down on the week, it will be only the
third weekly loss this year for the benchmark index, which has
struggled to surpass an intraday record high of 1,576.09.
Energy shares have been among the most pressured recently,
dropping alongside crude oil, which is down 4.6 percent this
week. Tied to growth expectations, the group could continue to
struggle if the payroll report disappoints. Chevron Corp
has lost 2.6 percent over the past two weeks.
Overseas, European shares slumped 1.5 percent,
falling to a one-month low on concerns over growth and a decline
in airline shares.
"A lot of the weakness in Europe is being carried over
here," said Bertelsen, who helps oversee $2.1 billion in assets.
Earnings forecasts have declined heading into first-quarter
reports, due to be kicked off next week by Alcoa. S&P 500
earnings are expected to have risen just 1.6 percent from a year
ago, according to Thomson Reuters data, down from 4.3 percent
forecast in January.
* Late Thursday, F5 Networks Inc forecast
second-quarter earnings and revenue that were well below
expectations. Its shares slumped 17 percent to $75.20 in
* Geopolitical tensions will remain in focus after North
Korea placed two of its intermediate range missiles on mobile
launchers and hid them on the east coast of the country, South
Korean media reported on Friday.