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U.S. stock-index futures were stuck in the red Wednesday after a key report showed the U.S. private sector added fewer jobs than expected last month.
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As of 8:20 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 43 points to 15138, S&P 500 futures dipped 5.3 points to 1627 and Nasdaq 100 futures slumped 8.5 points to 2966.
For Wall Street, it's all about quantitative easing. Any hints on when the Federal Reserve will taper its vast bond-buying program have driven the markets higher and lower in recent weeks.
The pace of economic data is heating up, giving traders fresh clues, as the big monthly jobs report looms on Friday.
The ADP National Employment Report shows the U.S. private sector added 135,000 jobs in May, missing expectations of 165,000 being created. Digging into the report, small businesses added 58,000 jobs, while medium and large employers added 39,000 each.
Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG, noted that the data from ADP have undershot the official data from the Labor Department in eight of the last 10 months, suggesting "Friday’s number may still come in roughly in line with consensus."
The Fed is looking to push the unemployment rate -- seen as heading steady at 7.5% in May -- down through its conventional and unconventional monetary policy.
A report due at 10:00 a.m. ET from the Institute for Supply Management is expected to show the U.S. services sector having expanded at a slightly swifter pace in May than it did in the month prior, with the non-manufacturing PMI gauge climbed to 53.5 from 53.1.
Then in the afternoon, at 2:00 p.m. ET, the Fed releases its Beige Book report. The report provides an anecdotal look at how the economy is performing across the central bank's 12 districts. Since it is viewed directly by policymakers, the report frequently moves the markets.
In corporate news, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) took a loss in its patent battle with Samsung. The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled against the tech giant and might impose an import ban on certain older models of iPhone and iPad devices. UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH), the blue-chip health insurer, boosted its dividend 32% and restarted its share buyback program.
The Japanese Nikkei 225 was pummeled overnight, plunging 3.8%, as investors there grew concerned about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's plan to revive the country's economy. Japanese markets are still up 23.3% for the year, widely outpacing the 14% gain seen in the S&P 500.
Oil and gasoline prices ticked up. The benchmark U.S. crude oil contract climbed 42 cents, or 0.44%, to $93.72 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline gained 0.12% to $2.822 a gallon. Gold was little changed at $1,397 a troy ounce.
The Euro Stoxx 50 sold off by 1.1% to 2727, the English FTSE 100 dropped 1.4% to 6470 and the German DAX fell 0.85% to 8225.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 plunged 3.8% to 13015 and the Chinese Hang Seng tumbled 0.97% to 22069.