Stock futures moved cautiously higher on Friday as investors waited to see if bad winter weather took a toll on job creation in January, and as they reached the end of a volatile week that's set to leave major indexes with moderate losses.
Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJH4) rose 24 points, or 0.2%, to 15,573, while those for the S&P 500 index (SPH4) added 4.7 points, or 0.3%, to 1,771.30. Futures for the Nasdaq 100 (NDH4) gained 17.25 points, or 0.5%, to 3,504.25.
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Economists polled by MarketWatch expect a 190,000 increase in nonfarm payrolls when the data is released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. But the worry is that the number for January could surprise on the downside, as it did for December with a reading of just 74,000. The jobless rate is expected to tick down to 6.6% in January, from 6.7% in December. What to look for in January jobs report
"If someone gave you today's payroll number and unemployment rate in advance, would you know how to trade it? It's possible that the answer to this question would be different today than it might be in a couple of months time," commented Deutsche Bank strategists Jim Reid and Antony Ip in a note to investors.
"Although this week has seen a recovery in risk, especially yesterday, markets are still uneasy enough that the relief of a stronger number would probably outweigh any yield rising or tapering worries for now," the strategists said. "Clearly we have to watch out for the impact of weather again, including any revisions to last month's surprise big downside miss."
Wall Street saw the best gains in seven weeks on Thursday, after a bigger-than-expected drop in weekly jobless claims and some upbeat earnings. Logging its biggest gains since Dec. 18, the S&P 500 index (SPX) closed up 21.79 points, or 1.2%, at 1,773.43. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) closed near session highs, adding 188.30 points, or 1.2%, to 15,628.53.
Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher will be interviewed live on CNBC at 8:15 a.m. Eastern Time, and consumer-credit data for December is due out at 3 p.m. Eastern.
On the corporate front, Apple Inc. (AAPL) may draw attention after Chief Executive Tim Cook told The Wall Street Journal in an interview that the company bought $14 billion of its own shares in the two weeks since reporting results that left investors disappointed.
Shares of LinkedIn Corp. (LNKD) could see pressure after the social network for professionals posted a weak outlook, though fourth-quarter results topped analysts' forecasts late Thursday. Shares fell more than 8% in late trade.
Share of Expedia Inc. (EXPE) could add to a 13% late boost, after the company reported a profit that surged on a favorable comparison with a year earlier, as revenue rose.
In other markets, European stocks climbed ahead of the release of U.S .jobs data, while Asia took inspiration from Wall Street and closed broadly higher. The euro fell against the dollar after a German constitutional court said it has referred a decision on the legality of the European Central Bank's bond-buying program to the European Court of Justice.
"If they say it is not legal, then the bedrock of (ECB President Mario) Draghi's 'to do whatever it takes' pledge from 2012 will be undermined, making peripheral bond markets more vulnerable, pushing up yields and then also pushing down the single currency," said Simon Smith, chief economist at FxPro.
Gold inched higher, while oil prices and natural gas pulled back.