* 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 off 9 pts, S&P up 0.4 pt, Nasdaq up 0.25 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Sept 5 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were poised to open little changed Thursday, as investors were reluctant to make big bets following a strong start to the month and ahead of data that could alter expectations for any 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 volatility has recently been driven by the likelihood of a Western-led strike, with investors attuned to any possible impact on oil supplies. Crude oil rose 0.5 percent, extending its gains over the past two weeks. [ID: nL6N0H02J0]
Economic data on the labor market provided few surprises ahead of Friday’s closely watched payroll report, and did little to alter investor speculation about when the U.S. Federal Reserve might begin to ease its accommodative monetary policies, credited with fueling the equity market’s gains in 2013.
“We’re wait-and-see with payrolls, and we are also wait-and-see about Syria, and just about Congress in general,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.
The ADP National Employment report showed U.S. private employers added 176,000 jobs in August, nearly matching expectations for a gain of 180,000 jobs, while weekly initial jobless claims dipped by 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 323,000, slightly better than expectations calling for a fall to 330,000 new applications.
Other data showed productivity rose 2.3 percent in the second quarter and labor costs were flat.
Ahead of the start of the Group of 20 summit, Russia and China warned that an end to the U.S. Fed’s stimulus could have a negative impact on the global economy. [ID: nL6N0H10WS]
S&P 500 futures rose 0.4 point and were 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 shed 9 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 0.25 point.
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.
After falling 3.1 percent in August, for its worst monthly performance since May 2012, the benchmark S&P index has kicked off September with a 1.2 percent advance.
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 2.9 percent to $8.51 in premarket trading after Otsuka Pharmaceutical agreed to buy the company for $886 million. [ID: nL4N0H11BD]
Kaydon Corp jumped 22.3 percent to $35.60 in premarket trade after Sweden’s SKF agreed to acquire the diversified industrial manufacturer for $1.25 billion.
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.