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US STOCKS-Wall Street set to drift lower after data
August 2, 2013 / 1:15 PM / in 4 years

US STOCKS-Wall Street set to drift lower after data

* U.S. unemployment rate falls, but payrolls disappoint

* LinkedIn, AIG shares rise after results

* Dell committee and buyout group close to deal, shares up

* Futures: Dow off 20 pts, S&P down 3 pts, Nasdaq up 7 pts

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, Aug 2 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set to open lower on Friday as traders digest data showing U.S. hiring slowed in July but the jobless rate fell, mixed signals that could make the U.S. Federal Reserve more cautious about drawing down its economic stimulus.

Consumer spending, however, increased in June and inflation pushed higher, which could strengthen expectations that the Fed will wind down its bond purchases later this year.

S&P 500 futures were volatile before moving slightly lower. Data showed non-farm payrolls rose by 162,000 in July, below expectations, but the unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent, its lowest reading since December 2008. The government also cut its previous estimates for hiring in May and June.

“The report shows that the health of the labor market is improving but at the same time, unhealthy,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer at Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.

“The stock market is a bit schizophrenic here, because while it does keep the Fed more on the sidelines, it’s not a good sign of our economy. There is this balancing act here where the market wants growth but not too much too soon.”

The Fed said on Wednesday the U.S. economy continues to recover but is still in need of support, offering no indication that it is planning to reduce its $85 billion a month bond-buying stimulus at its next meeting in September.

The Fed’s support has been a pillar of the recovery from the deepest recession since the Great Depression, and the U.S. central bank has reiterated that it will continue to stimulate the economy until it is capable of standing on its own.

S&P 500 futures fell 3 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 dipped 20 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 7 points.

Traders of short-term U.S. interest-rate futures boosted bets that the Federal Reserve will wait until 2015 before raising short-term borrowing costs after the payrolls report.

LinkedIn shares jumped 9.7 percent in premarket trading and several brokerages raised their price targets on the stock after results topped Wall Street’s expectations on Thursday.

AIG Inc also beat expectations on Thursday and announced its first capital return since its 2008 bailout through a dividend and share buyback, sending its shares up 4.4 percent in premarket trading.

Shares of MercadoLibre rose 7.9 percent premarket, a day after the Latin American e-commerce company reported quarterly results above analysts’ expectations.

Of the 375 companies in the S&P 500 that reported earnings for the second quarter through Thursday morning, 67.5 percent have topped analyst expectations, in line with the average beat over the past four quarters, data from Thomson Reuters show. About 55 percent have reported revenue above estimates, more than the average beat of the past four quarters but below the historical average.

Dell shares gained 5 percent premarket. Its special committee and a group led by founder and chief executive Michael Dell are nearing a deal that dramatically increases the chances of his $24.6 billion buyout going through, two people familiar with the matter said.

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