Futures Slip as Traders Digest Jobs Data

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Stock-index futures fell modestly on Friday as traders digested data showing the U.S. economy added substantially fewer jobs than expected last month, coupled with a small drop in the unemployment rate.

Today's Markets

As of 9:20 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures slipped 48 points to 13094, S&P 500 futures fell 5.7 point to 1380 and Nasdaq 100 futures slipped 10 points, or 0.37%, to 2682.

Economic reports this week have painted a murky picture of the trajectory of the world's biggest economy. One closely-eyed report showed the manufacturing sector expanding at an accelerating pace, but then another showed the recovery in the services segment is slowing down.

The monthly employment report from the Labor Department is widely considered to be on of the most important pieces of data on the U.S. economy. The economy added 115,000 jobs in April, far weaker than the 170,000 gain that was expected. The unemployment rate fell 0.1-percentage point to 8.1% for the month, compared to expectations of no change. The March gain was also revised up to 259,000 from 240,000.

The so-called labor force participation rate, which tracks the proportion of the full population either employed or actively seeking employment, fell to 63.6% -- the lowest since 1981. That means more people actually left the labor force over the course of the month.

"Ignoring the specifics of today’s report, the larger theme of slower job creation should now be embedded," Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG wrote in an e-mail.

Reports on major economies in the eurozone broadly came as a disappointment on the day. The services sector in Germany, France, Italy, and the currency bloc as a whole continue to contract amid strong headwinds from the debt crisis. This weekend, there will be important elections in France and Greece that analysts say could upset the fragile political system there and put previous agreements in peril.

The elections have "the potential to escalate the [eurozone] crisis by raising anxieties about fiscal discipline," Markit Chief Economist Chris Williamson wrote in an e-mail.

Commodities were mostly lower. Crude oil fell $2.40, or 2.3%, to $100.14 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 1.3% to $3.01 a gallon.

In metals, gold gained $2.10, or 0.13%, to $1,637 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips were flat, the English FTSE 100 dipped 0.67% to 5728 and the German DAX fell 0.51% to 6660.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rose 0.31% to 9380 and the Chinese Hang Seng slid 0.77% to 21086.