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Stocks Up Ahead of Jobs

A big number on the rate-hike front looms at 8:30 a.m. EST.

Stocks were looking at a modestly positive open ahead of a jobs report that could help decide how much higher interest rates go.

Early Friday, S&P 500 index futures were showing a 2.5-point gain and the Nasdaq 100 futures 4 points ahead of fair value. The gains came on the heels of Thursday's marketwide selloff and disappointing postclose earnings reports from

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Stocks were mixed overseas. Gains in Europe, where the London FTSE-100 was up 2 to 5749, Germany's DAX was up 26 to 5676 and France's CAC was up 10 to 4938, were offset by declines in Asia, where Japan's Nikkei dropped 50 to 16,660 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng gave up 1.7% to 15,430. The benchmark 10-year note was up a tick to yield 4.55%. Oil rose 23 cents to $64.91 on the back of Thursday's sharp drop. The dollar was up against the yen and lower against the euro.

At 8:30 a.m. EST, the government will issue its employment report for January. Economists expect to see that the economy has added around 250,000 nonfarm jobs, up from 108,000 a month ago. A ruddy report could feed fears among investors that the Fed's rate-hike campaign isn't near an end. The Federal Open Market Committee on Tuesday boosted its short-term lending rate to 4.5% but made remarks that some observers took as a sign that further increases could soon come to an end. That's unlikely to be the case if the jobs report comes in extremely strong, feeding fears that inflation could take root.

A Thursday morning report on weekly jobless claims ramped up speculation that Friday's payroll number will come in at or above Wall Street expectations. Initial claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell by 11,000 to 273,000, vs. expectations for claims to rise to 295,000, according to a report from the Department of Labor. The decline also leaves the four-week moving average at 284,000, the lowest level since June 2000.

Other economic data due out Friday include the Michigan sentiment index, expected to be at 93.4, and factory orders. Both those numbers are due out around 10 a.m.

It's looking like a relatively quiet day on the earnings front after a rush of big-name companies over the last week. Friday should bring reports from


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On Thursday, Amazon fell 8% after the online retailer posted a soft fourth-quarter revenue gain and guided toward first-quarter sales that were toward the low end of analyst estimates. Gateway dropped 7% in postclose trading after the PC maker said sales to corporations and from its direct sales division plummeted.


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plunged 27% after the watch maker missed sales targets as well, saying margins were hurt by a sales mix shift toward lower-margin businesses and geographical regions, in addition to higher freight costs and slightly increased markdowns.

On Thursday, the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

finished down 101.97 points, or 0.93%, to 10,851.98, with

General Motors

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losing 3.7%. The

S&P 500

fell 11.62 points, or 0.91%, to 1270.84. The

Nasdaq Composite

skidded 28.99 points, or 1.25%, at 2281.57.

To view David Peltier's video take on today's premarket action, click here