By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch
LONDON (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures held to a tight range Friday ahead of the key monthly payrolls report as traders look for confirmation of the grim economic data that's been released this week.
S&P 500 futures rose nine-tenths of a point to 1,022.70 and Nasdaq 100 futures added 3.75 points to 1,731.70. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 4 points.
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U.S. stocks finished weaker Thursday, though off the session's worst levels, following data showing growing jobless claims, slowing manufacturing growth in the U.S. and China as well as a plunge in pending home sales. The S&P 500 finished 0.3% lower to close at its worst level since early September 2009.
After the surprise jobless claims increase as well as the slow private-sector jobs growth reported by ADP, markets are on alert for a weak report on employment, due from the Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.
The loss of temporary census workers in any event is likely to show a monthly decline in nonfarm employment for the first time since December.
"If we get a -200,000 figure or worse, then despite very low 10-year Treasury yields, these could easily fall another 10 basis points or so," said Rob Carnell, an economist at ING in London.
Yields on the 10-year Treasury slipped 2 basis points to 2.94%.
The euro /quotes/comstock/21o!x:seurusd (CUR_EURUSD 1.2508, -0.0007, -0.0559%) held above $1.25, while oil futures traded below $73 a barrel.
Also in the spotlight will be Google /quotes/comstock/15*!goog/quotes/nls/goog (GOOG 439.49, -5.46, -1.23%) after the search giant said late Thursday it's going to buy ITA Software, a flight information software firm, for $700 million, though the deal is likely to attract antitrust scrutiny.
Walt Disney /quotes/comstock/13*!dis/quotes/nls/dis (DIS 31.49, -0.01, -0.03%) late Thursday said it's purchased Tapulous, a maker of games for the iPhone, for an undisclosed price.
Dell /quotes/comstock/15*!dell/quotes/nls/dell (DELL 12.03, -0.03, -0.25%) also announced a deal for a privately held company, saying it will buy a data center infrastructure software firm called Scalent for an undisclosed price.
Most overseas stock markets registered small gains, with the Stoxx Europe 600 index up 0.2% and the Nikkei 225 up 0.1%.
Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch's London bureau chief.