ADP Report: Tomorrow's Headliners

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Automatic Data Processing's ( ADP) latest employment report will be the highlight of Wednesday's session, as traders look to the report as a preview for the government's own data, which is due later in the week.

The ADP report, due for release at 8:15 a.m. EST Wednesday, is expected to show that the private sector lost 20,000 jobs in February, which would be a slight improvement from the 22,000 job losses in January.

January's ADP Report estimates nonfarm private employment in the service-providing sector increased by 38,000, the second consecutive monthly increase. However, this employment growth was not enough to offset continued losses in the goods-producing sector, last month's ADP report said.

The Labor Department's nonfarm payrolls report, scheduled for release Friday at 8:30 a.m. EST, is also expected to show that the U.S. economy lost 20,000 jobs last month, according to a Reuters poll of analysts. That would equal the 20,000 jobs lost in January, pending revisions. The unemployment rate should tick higher to 9.8% from 9.7%, estimates show.

In other jobs-related news, the Challenger, Gray and Christmas job cuts survey for February will also be released Wednesday. Last month, the survey showed that employers cut payrolls by 71,482 jobs, a 59% increase from December and the first increase in monthly job cuts since last July.

The surge was due primarily to heavy downsizing in the retail and telecommunications sectors, Challenger, Gray and Christmas said. Still, although layoffs increased from December, the January total was down 70% from a year ago, when planned layoffs peaked at 241,749

Elsewhere on the economic docket, the Mortgage Bankers Association will release its weekly mortgage applications survey before the start of trading, followed at 10 a.m. EST by the Institute for Supply Management's services index, which should climb to 51 in February from 50.5 in January. Any reading over 50 on the index indicates expansion, rather than contraction.

Later in the day, the Federal Reserve will release its beige book report, which includes economic surveys from the central bank's 12 districts. Due at 2 p.m. EST, the beige book is expected to once again show that the economic activity inched higher.

In the last beige book report, released on Jan. 13, the Fed's regional banks said that while economic activity remained at a low level, conditions improved modestly further, and those improvements were broader geographically. Economists will closely watch what the beige book says this time, as the report is used by the Federal Open Market Committee for interest rate policy. The next FOMC meeting is scheduled for March 16.

On the earnings front, Costco Wholesale ( COST), Big Lots ( BIG), BJ's Wholesale ( BJ) and Joy Global ( JOYG) are among a handful of companies set to report quarterly results before the start of trading Wednesday.

After the closing bell, Foot Locker ( FL), PetSmart ( PETM), Take-Two Interactive ( TTWO) and Yamana Gold ( AUY) will open their books of the recent quarter.

Investors will also be focusing on the Energy Department's weekly inventory report, due at 10:30 a.m. EST, as oil prices hover just below $80 a barrel.

-- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston.

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