* Payroll data tops expectations
* J.C. Penney gets letter of inquiry from SEC
* Sears Holdings to spin off Lands' End business
* Futures up: Dow 144 pts, S&P 17.5 pts, Nasdaq 26.25 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Dec 6 U.S. stocks were poised for a
strong open on Friday, putting the S&P 500 on track to halt a
five-session losing spree, after a stronger-than-expected
Nonfarm payrolls increased by 203,000 new jobs last month
and the jobless rate fell to a five-year low of 7.0 percent.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls rising
180,000 last month and the unemployment rate falling to 7.2
percent from 7.3 percent.
After an eight-week run that saw the S&P 500 climb nearly
seven percent, the benchmark index has dropped 1.2 percent over
the past five sessions, its longest losing streak since late
September, as encouraging economic data increased expectations
the Fed may soon trim its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases.
Many market participants have, thus far, expected the Fed to
announce a cut in stimulus in March. The Fed has said it would
slow its massive bond purchases when certain economic measures
meet its targets, including a decline in the U.S. unemployment
rate. The payrolls report Friday may help gird expectations that
the economy would be able to support a Fed wind-down of
"I don't think the Fed is in a big rush to do anything
drastic in the absence of inflation. A few strong jobs numbers
do not mean we are out of the woods," said Michael Marrale, head
of research, sales and trading at ITG in New York.
"That said, we are in a very good spot and we can offset
growth with tapering and we come out of this in one piece."
Other data showed consumer spending increased 0.3 percent in
October after rising 0.2 percent in September. Economists polled
by Reuters had expected consumer spending, which accounts for
about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, to gain 0.2 percent
Later in the session at 9:55 a.m. EST (1455 GMT), investors
will eye the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of
Consumers release December preliminary consumer sentiment index.
Economists in a Reuters survey expect a reading of 76.0 compared
with 75.1 in the final November report.
S&P 500 futures jumped 17.5 points and were well
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 gained
144 points and Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 26.25 points.
J.C. Penney Co Inc fell 2.3 percent to $8.65 in
premarket trade after the department store chain said it
received a letter of inquiry from the U.S. Securities and
Exchange Commission, seeking an explanation on the company's
Struggling retailer Sears Holdings Corp, led by
hedge fund manager Edward Lampert, rose 4.6 percent to $52.30 in
premarket trading after the company said it would spin off its
Lands' End clothing business.