Futures Waver as Traders Digest Weak Data, Earnings


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U.S. stock-index futures were little changed Wednesday as traders mulled disappointing private-sector payroll data, and earnings from biotech giant Merck. Meanwhile, vehicle sales figures and a Fed statement were are on tap.

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Today's Markets

As of 8:25 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 9 points to 14764, S&P 500 futures rose 0.25 point to 1593 and Nasdaq 100 futures advanced 3.5 points to 2884.

The S&P 500 closed out April at record highs, having climbed 1.8% in its sixth-straight monthly advance. The broad-market barometer has posted gains of 12% for the year.

The ADP National Employment Report showed the private sector added 119,000 jobs in April, falling short of estimates of an increase of 150,000 jobs. Digging into the report, small businesses added the most jobs, followed by large businesses and then medium-sized ones. Every segment tacked on jobs on the month, expect manufacturing, which shed 10,000 jobs.

The labor market has shown only tepid growth in recent months, sparking worries about the robustness of the recovery of the world's biggest economy.

The Institute for Supply Management's PMI gauge is expected to have fallen to 50.9 last month from 51.3 the month before. The reading would suggest the manufacturing sector expanded at a slower rate in April than it did in March. Several regional factory reports have come in well below expectations in recent weeks.

Also on the economic front, the Federal Reserve's monetary-policy decision is due at roughly 2:00 p.m. ET. Economists widely expect the central bank to hold the pace of its vast asset purchase program at $85 billion a month. The Fed is also expected to keep interest rates at record lows, per its pledge to push the unemployment rate down to 6.5%.

The European Central Bank is out with its decision on Thursday. That one is being more closely watched since some analysts expect the ECB to cut rates to record lows amid signs Germany, Europe's biggest economy, has begun struggling.

In corporate news, Merck (NYSE:MRK) posted weaker-than-expected quarterly sales on increased generic competition, sending shares of the blue-chip biotech behemoth sliding more than 2% in pre-market action.

Automakers, like General Motors (NYSE:GM), Ford (NYSE:F) and Chrysler report monthly sales figures on the day.

Oil and gasoline futures were sharply lower. The benchmark U.S. crude oil contract slid $1.40, or 1.5%, to $92.06 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline sold off 1.4% to $2.763 a gallon. In metals, gold slumped $6.80, or 0.46%, to $1,466 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The English FTSE 100 climbed 0.66% to 6472. Markets in Germany were closed for Labor Day.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 fell 0.44% to 13799. Markets in China were closed for Labor Day.

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