NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures tilted slightly up Wednesday after fresh data on the U.S. labor market and as investors turned their focus to more austerity measures from Greece.
Stock futures offered muted reaction, turning slightly higher, after a report from private employment service ADP that counted 20,000 job losses among private employers, less than the 60,000 jobs lost in January.
"It is unclear that the ADP survey signals upside risk for Friday, given that most economists assume a large weather-hit on Friday that overshadows the gain in census hirings," said analysts at Action Economics.
Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 5 points to 10,404, and S&P 500 futures turned 1.2 points higher at 1,118.6. Futures on the Nasdaq 100 added 1 point to 1,853.25.
U.S. stocks managed a higher close on Tuesday, with merger activity lifting investor sentiment and technology stocks boosted by Qualcomm's $3 billion stock buyback. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended at 10,405.98, up 2.19 points. The S&P 500 rose 0.2% and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.3%.
Looking For Payroll Clues
After a week that's seen plenty of homegrown interest for European markets, we're now back on U.S. payroll watch.
Other economic data on the agenda for Wednesday includes the ISM services index for February due at 10 a.m.
The Fed's Beige Book on the economy is also due at 2 p.m., while Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart will be speaking ahead of that at 1 p.m.
"The ISM should do fine, but take profit on longs ahead of the Fed's Beige Book, which is likely to continue painting a bleak picture of the U.S. economy," said Christian Tegllund Blaabjerg, chief equity strategist at Saxo Bank, in a market update.
Other Fed officials were speaking on Wednesday. Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher said banks that are too big to fall should be broken up to avoid threatening the financial system. Fisher made the comments in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, according to news reports. He also told CNBC in an interview that the economy was "not robust, but improving."
Shares of Costco Wholesale Corp. /quotes/comstock/15*!cost/quotes/nls/cost (COST 60.98, -0.40, -0.65%) and BJ's Wholesale Club Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!bj/quotes/nls/bj (BJ 34.85, -1.62, -4.44%) were both about 4% lower in premarket trade after the rival retailers each reported results slightly short of Wall Street's expectations.
Pfizer /quotes/comstock/13*!pfe/quotes/nls/pfe (PFE 17.45, -0.15, -0.87%) shares were down 0.7% in pre open. The company said its Alzheimer's drug Dimebon missed endpoints.
Pfizer was also part of mergers and acquisitions news on Wednesday. It reportedly may bid as much as $4.1 billion for German generic-drug company Ratiopharm, according to a report from Bloomberg, citing two people familiar with the situation.
Novell /quotes/comstock/15*!novl/quotes/nls/novl (NOVL 6.04, +1.29, +27.16%) shot up 31% on a bid to be bought by hedge fund Elliott & Associates for $1 billion, or $5.75 a share, that the company said it's reviewing.
An investment group led by J.P. Morgan Asset Management and Water Asset Management said it's buying SouthWest Water Co. /quotes/comstock/15*!swwc/quotes/nls/swwc (SWWC 10.48, +3.41, +48.23%) for $275 million.
Shares of Hovnanian Enterprises /quotes/comstock/13*!hov/quotes/nls/hov (HOV 4.18, +0.21, +5.29%) rose 5.3% in pre open trade after the company swung to a quarterly profit of $2.97 a share from a loss of $2.29 in the year-earlier quarter.
Shares of Joy Global /quotes/comstock/15*!joyg/quotes/nls/joyg (JOYG 55.36, +3.87, +7.51%) were up 3.2% after the company reported earnings that beat forecasts and the company also raised the low end of its 2010 earnings target by 20 cents.
Meanwhile, focus returned to Greece on Wednesday, on news the government will take new austerity measures totaling 4.8 billion euros ($6.49 billion) to ensure it can meet its deficit-cutting pledge this year, according to news reports citing unnamed Greek officials. Greek bonds traded higher but the country's main stock market index dropped.
"The measures today bring a bailout of Greece a step closer," said analysts at UBS in a note to investors. "It seems unlikely that Greece has kicked the deficit habit over the long term -- but markets will probably take comfort from a period of E.U.-sponsored rehab."
Some relief over Greece was helping to support the euro against the dollar, which rose 0.2% to $1.3638. Shares in Europe were mildly lower as investors eyed that Greece news and a mixed batch of earnings. Meanwhile, the yield premium demanded by investors to hold 10-year Greek government bonds over German bunds narrowed.
Asian markets saw broad but modest gains Wednesday, with strength in commodity plays and upbeat economic data helping to lift Australia's benchmark stock index to its highest level in more than five weeks.
Crude-oil futures were up 49 cents a barrel to $80.17, while gold futures rose $2.6 to $1,140 an ounce.
Kate Gibson is a reporter for MarketWatch, based in New York. Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid.