* U.S. nonfarm payrolls seen to have risen 170,000 in May
* Weak payrolls may ease fear of Fed scaling back stimulus
* Gradual withdrawal of stimulus is “adequate”-Greenspan
* Must “get moving” on withdrawing stimulus-Greenspan
* Futures off: S&P flat, Dow 9 pts, Nasdaq 1.75 pts
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, June 7 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Friday amid caution ahead of the closely watched U.S. nonfarm payrolls report, which is likely to provide clues on how soon the Federal Reserve will begin to ease back on its stimulus efforts.
Stocks have mostly declined this week ahead of the jobs report. Investors fret that if the report is stronger than expected, the Fed may slow down its bond-buying program, which has fed a rally in the U.S. equity market this year.
Market volatility has picked up over the past couple of weeks, reflecting investors’ concerns over the longevity of the Fed’s stimulus program and over a still-sluggish global economy.
The Labor Department will release the May employment report at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT). U.S. employers likely stepped up hiring only slightly in May, a sign the economy was growing modestly but not strongly enough to convince the Federal Reserve to scale back the amount of cash it is pumping into the banking system.
“If we get a strong number, that will flare up concerns of the Fed tapering (stimulus efforts) sooner-than-expected. At the same time, if we get a very weak number, then that will trigger, ‘where is the economy going’ concerns. So it’s important that we get a number that’s not too far off either way,” said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist with Schaeffer’s Investment Research Cincinnati, Ohio.
“Around 20,000 to 30,000 give or take (from the consensus number). That’s the sweet spot.”
Economists surveyed by Reuters expect the U.S. to have added 170,000 jobs in May, with the unemployment rate holding steady at a lofty 7.5 percent.
S&P 500 futures were flat and in line with 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 lost 9 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures fell 1.75 points.
The S&P 500 is up about 13 percent so far this year, after repeatedly hitting record highs. Those gains were triggered in part by the belief the Fed’s stimulus would remain in place.
On Friday, Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, said on CNBC that a gradual withdrawal of economic stimulus was “adequate, but we have to get moving.”
Wal-Mart Stores Inc is optimistic that sales at its U.S. stores will recover from recent sluggishness to grow in the second half of the year, in part because shoppers are getting more confident, company executives said late Thursday.
Apple shares may be in the spotlight after rival Samsung Electronics Co lost $12 billion in market value Friday, amid concern over slowing sales of its flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone. Apple shares were off 0.3 percent in premarket trading.
George Soros’s firm, Soros Fund Management, which manages $24 billion of the investor’s cash, sold much of its Japanese stock position in May, before the recent, steep sell-off, according to a person close to the matter.
U.S. stocks rose on Thursday, with the Dow swinging nearly 200 points between the session low and high, and the S&P 500 recovering after hitting a key technical level in volatile trading a day before the release of the U.S. jobs report.