By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch
LONDON (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures consolidated Monday after the payrolls-inspired rally of the prior session.
S&P 500 futures fell a half point to 1,136.10 and Nasdaq 100 futures dropped 1.25 points to 1,884.20. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped a point.
U.S. stocks rallied on Friday, and Asian equities surged Monday, after a report showing 36,000 nonfarm jobs lost in the U.S. during February, which was a better report than many economists had anticipated. A related household survey showed employment up 849,000 over the last two months, the biggest two-month rise since May 2005.
"At economic inflection points, the household survey can be a better gauge of underlying job gains than the establishment survey, because the household sample changes on a monthly basis, thereby allowing it to capture new business formations that can elude the establishment survey. The tone of the labor market is poised to strengthen considerably in the coming weeks," said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank.
The report comes as markets near the one-year anniversary of 2009 lows. The S&P 500 is up 68% from its closing price on March 9, 2009, which marked the worst levels in 12-and-a-half years.
Overseas, China central bank chief Zhou Xiochuan indicated that the country in time will change its much-criticized current exchange policy -- sending one-year dollar-yuan forwards lower though the over-the-counter spot rate didn't change much. See related story.
In Europe, comments from French President Nicolas Sarkozy on being ready to assist Greece and from German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on a possible European Monetary Fund helped nudge the euro higher. See related story.
Of companies in the spotlight, American International Group /quotes/comstock/13*!aig/quotes/nls/aig (AIG 28.08, +1.37, +5.13%) is nearing a deal to sell its second-largest foreign life insurance business, American Life Insurance, for $15.5 billion in cash and stock to MetLife /quotes/comstock/13*!met/quotes/nls/met (MET 38.92, +0.81, +2.13%) , The Wall Street Journal reported.
AIG is selling its Asia business for $35.5 billion to Prudential PLC /quotes/comstock/13*!puk/quotes/nls/puk (PUK 15.89, +0.27, +1.73%) , which on Monday said it would seek a listing in Hong Kong before it sells discounted shares to help fund the deal.
Royal Dutch Shell /quotes/comstock/13*!rds.a/quotes/nls/rds.a (RDS.A 57.06, +1.00, +1.78%) and PetroChina /quotes/comstock/13*!ptr/quotes/nls/ptr (PTR 117.05, +3.44, +3.03%) made a $3 billion joint bid for Australian coal-seam gas producer Arrow Energy.
Hewlett-Packard /quotes/comstock/13*!hpq/quotes/nls/hpq (HPQ 52.03, +0.52, +1.01%) late Friday cut its first-quarter earnings by 3 cents a share due to a lawsuit involving subsidiary Electronic Data Systems.
Oil futures were trading at $82 a barrel, and gold futures were little changed.
Europe stocks wavered between gains and losses on negative news from the pharmaceutical sector.
Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch's London bureau chief.