Futures Pause Ahead of Economic Data

Wall Street wasn't showing much willingness to follow up on prior-day rises, as stock futures stood still Wednesday ahead of the open. Economic signals will come later in the ADP employment report and the Institute for Supply Management's nonmanufacturing survey.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJH4) fell 19 points to 15,319, while futures for the S&P 500 index (SPH4) eased 3.4 points to 1,740.30. Futures for the Nasdaq-100 (NDH4) fell 7.5 points to 3,444.50.

The ADP employment report is due at 8:15 a.m. Eastern Time. ADP, the nation's biggest payroll processor, has produced some better numbers since late fall, but economists caution that the data isn't always a good indicator of the bigger nonfarm-payrolls reading, due Friday. In December, ADP reported a 238,000 gain, while nonfarm payrolls rose just 74,000.

At 10 a.m. Eastern Time, investors will get to gauge the health of the nonmanufacturing sector from ISM. Earlier in the week, markets got a shock when the ISM manufacturing survey showed a sharp slowdown among customers in January, triggering a big selloff for Wall Street.

"Given the run of misses we've seen in U.S. economic data of late, another shortfall here could serve to rattle traders," said Joao Monteiro, analyst at Monex Capital Markets, in a note. "While this latest correction may be close to having run its course, anything that suggests the U.S. economy is going to struggle as the QE tapering continues will give investors another reason to look for the exit."

A couple of Federal Reserve speakers are also on tap with Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser due to speak on the economy at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time in Rochester, New York, and Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart is scheduled to speak on the economic outlook at 1:40 p.m. Eastern Time in Birmingham, Alabama.

Investors are eager to see which way markets will open after Wall Street closed Tuesday with modest gains, reclaiming a fraction of the worst losses since June seen on Monday. A smaller-than-expected factory drop for December helped the S&P 500 index (SPX) close 0.8% higher to 1,755.20. Greenhaus: S&P pullback is 'normal' so far, but 10% would be extreme

European stocks were set to break a three-day losing streak, albeit with modest gains, while stocks stabilized in Asia. Gold and oil prices moved higher, while the dollar pushed south.

Humana Inc. (HUM) said it swung to a fourth-quarter loss of 19 cents, but stuck to its 2014 earnings guidance.

Merck & Co. Inc.(MRK) is still due to report.

Tableau Software Inc. (DATA) and Myriad Genetics Inc. (MYGN) could add to strong gains seen in late trading Tuesday, after earnings reports. Twitter Inc. (TWTR) and Walt Disney Co. (DIS) will release results after the market close.