Futures Fall Flat as Traders Mull Jobs Data


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U.S. stock-index futures drifted to the upside Friday as Wall Street eagerly awaited the monthly jobs report from the Labor Department.

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Today's Markets

As of 8:40 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 10 points to 15538, S&P 500 futures dipped 1 points to 1699 and Nasdaq 100 futures jumped 7 points to 3120.

The U.S. economy added 162,000 jobs in July, a slimmer gain than estimates of 184,000. The jobless rate fell by 0.2 percentage point to 7.4% -- the lowest since December 2008, and below the forecast of 7.5%. The labor force participation rate, which gauges the proportion of the population in the labor force, fell to 63.4% from 63.5%.

Market participants said the report was solid, but still pointed to stubbornly-slow job growth.

"The reality of a still mediocre economy was evident in today’s payroll figure," said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group.

Echoing that view, Peter Newland, an economist at Barclays, wrote to clients that the dip in the jobless rate "was the beginning and end of the better-than-expected news from the July employment report." He went on to say that "all other features were on the soft side of expectations."

The report has taken on even more significance recently as traders try to figure out when the Federal Reserve will begin tapering its vast bond-buying program and eventually hike interest rates. The central bank has repeatedly said it plans on starting to push overnight rates higher when the jobless rate moves down to around 6.5%.

The Commerce Department said consumer spending climbed 0.5% in June from May, matching Wall Street’s expectations. Personal income inched up by 0.3%, slightly shy of estimates of a 0.4% increase.

Later in the morning, there is a separate report due out on factory orders, which are expected to have jumped 2.2% in June from May.

On the corporate front, AIG (NYSE:AIG) posted better-than-expected quarterly profits and resumed its dividend for the first time since the financial crisis. Dell's(NASDAQ:DELL) special committee and a buyout group led by founder Michael Dell and private-equity firm Silver Lake Partners were said to be nearing a deal ahead of a key shareholder vote, according to several news reports.

Elsewhere, gold prices tumbled $25.10, or 1.9%, to $1,286 a troy ounce. Oil dipped 19 cents, or 0.18%, to $107.70 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline slumped 0.53% to $3.012 a gallon.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.11% to 2812, the English FTSE 100 dipped 0.22% to 6667 and the German DAX climbed 0.1% to 8419.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 surged 3.3% to 14466 and the Chinese Hang Seng drifted higher by 0.46% to 22191.

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