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Friday, January 8, 2010

Indications: U.S. stock futures hold tight ahead of jobs data

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By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch

MADRID (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures were pointing slightly higher on Friday, but within tight ranges ahead of a key report expected to show the economy stopped shedding jobs for the first time in two years.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 13 points to 10,559, while those for the S&P 500 rose 1.1 points to 1,138.60. Futures for the Nasdaq 100 were up 1.5 points to 1,879.

Bullish analyst comments boosted financial stocks, fueling an uptick in the broader market Thursday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (INDU 10,607, +33.18, +0.31%) rose 0.3%, the Nasdaq Composite /quotes/comstock/10y!i:comp (COMP 2,300, -1.04, -0.05%) fell 0.1% and the S&P 500 /quotes/comstock/21z!i1:in\x (SPX 1,142, +4.55, +0.40%) rose 0.4%.

The market was also buoyed by better-than-expected readings of retail sales and jobless claims but hurt by worries about interest rates.

For Friday, focus falls on nonfarm payroll data, due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. Economists polled by MarketWatch are expecting a rise of 15,000, against a previous month's fall of 11,000.

"Today may well hold the key to the Kingdom for the next few months," said David Buik, senior partner at BCG Partners in London. "Has the tide turned? Rarely has a piece of data ever been so eagerly awaited."

Christian Tegllund Blaabjerg, strategist with Saxo Bank, said in a market update on Friday that they too are expecting a "strong number," with gains of around 35,000 against consensus of a flat number, but that this also has a lot to do with seasonal adjustments.

Also out, are wholesale inventories for November, due at 10 a.m. and consumer credit, due at 3 p.m., both Eastern.

Stocks in focus for Friday include General Mills /quotes/comstock/13*!gis/quotes/nls/gis (GIS 71.30, +1.13, +1.61%) , which is expected to deliver a mid-year update for analysts before the market open.

Some bleaker economic data came out of Europe on Friday. Unemployment in the 16-nation euro zone rose to 10% in November, up from 9.9% in October. That's the highest rate since August 1998, and in Spain, unemployment was 19.4%, Eurostat said.

European stocks were higher, riding on optimism ahead of the U.S. jobs data. Shares of Deutsche Bank /quotes/comstock/13*!db/quotes/nls/db (DB 74.17, +0.83, +1.13%) and Barclays /quotes/comstock/13*!bcs/quotes/nls/bcs (BCS 20.40, +0.73, +3.71%) were up after an upgrade to buy from UBS.

The mood was upbeat in Asia as well overnight, with Japanese exporters helped by recent weakness for the yen and Hutchison Telecommunications' /quotes/comstock/13*!htx/quotes/nls/htx (HTX 3.32, 0.00, 0.00%) shares surging in Hong Kong on an offer to take the company private.

The dollar was on firmer ground ahead of the payrolls data, but slipped some against the Japanese yen. Japan's newly appointed Finance Minister Naoto Kan backtracked overnight from comments a day earlier that were perceived to be talking down the yen. On Friday, he said the yen's exchange rate should be determined by markets.

Crude oil futures were down 25 cents to $82.40 a barrel, while gold futures were down $11.10 to $1,122.60 an ounce.

Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid.


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