* Payrolls could influence expectations on Fed policy
* Dow on track to snap four-week losing streak
* Syria not main focus, but remains a market issue
* Futures up: Dow 13 pts, S&P 2.7 pts, Nasdaq 6.5 pts
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Sept 6 U.S. stock index futures gained
modestly on Friday, as investors were reluctant to make big bets
following three straight days of gains and ahead of the monthly
The nonfarm payroll report will be scrutinized for insight
into the U.S. labor market and its implications for how long the
Federal Reserve's accommodative monetary policies will continue.
Analysts expect 180,000 jobs to have been added in August, up
from 162,000 added in the previous month. The unemployment rate
is seen holding at 7.4 percent.
If the report comes in sharply above forecasts, it could
cement expectations that the U.S. central bank will this month
begin to slow its bond-buying stimulus program, which has been
credited with fueling the S&P 500's 16-percent gain in 2013.
"If the report comes in as expected, it won't be a game
changer for investors, but we should still see the market react
well to the news," said Adam Hewison, president and chief
executive at INO.com Inc in Annapolis, Maryland.
Recent data have pointed to improvement on the employment
front, with jobless claims falling to a near five-year low in
the latest week.
The strong data and expectations for the Fed to being
scaling back stimulus triggered a selloff in bonds, with the
benchmark 10-year Treasury yield brushing against 3
percent. Analysts said the recent bond selloff could persist.
"Right now the idea of tapering is reflected in the market,
and stocks have been able to hold on well and build on our
skyrocketing so far this year," Hewison said.
S&P 500 futures rose 2.7 points and were 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 13
points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 6.5 points.
For the week thus far, the S&P 500 is up 1.4 percent, its
best weekly performance since July. The Dow was on track to snap
a four-week losing streak, rising 0.9 percent, while the Nasdaq
is up 1.9 percent for the week.
Investors are continuing to assess the possibility of a
U.S.-led strike against Syria in retaliation for an alleged
chemical weapons attack against its civilians. U.S. President
Barack Obama has received support in his bid to get
Congressional authorization for a strike, though he also faces
growing pressure at the Group of 20 summit in Russia not to use
Syria has been a market driver over the past two week,
sparking steep gyrations that have been amplified by light
trading volume around holidays.
Energy prices have been among the most volatile amid the
geopolitical uncertainty, with investors concerned that military
action in the Middle East will weigh on oil supplies. Crude oil
has spiked about 2 percent over the past two weeks and
rose 0.6 percent on Friday.
Timken Co rose after the bell on Thursday after the
company's board approved a plan to spin off its steel business
from its bearings and power transmission operations.
At least three brokers raised their price targets on
Infoblox Inc a day after the network security company
reported its fourth-quarter results. The stock jumped 15 percent
to $40.60 in light premarket trading.
Wall Street edged up on Thursday, rising for a third day
after strong data indicated economic conditions were improving.