NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures pointed to a lower open Wednesday despite private-sector job gains that were more than double what the market had expected in December. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down by 27 points, or 37 points below fair value, at 11,592. Futures for the S&P 500 were nearly 4 points lower, or 4 points below fair value, at 1,262, and Nasdaq futures were off by 5 points, or 9 points below fair value. Stocks saw a mixed close Tuesday as the market took a breather from a beginning-of-the-year rally , but the Federal Reserve's commitment to its quantitative easing program spurred some late buying. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.4% while Japan's Nikkei declined 0.2%. London's FTSE was slipping 0.7% and the DAX in Frankfurt was down by 1.7%. Outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas said layoffs fell to its lowest level since 1997 as job cuts of 32,004 in December declined 34% from November and fell 29% from the same month a year ago. The private sector added 297,000 private-sector jobs in December, according to Automated Data Processing's employment change report. The gain more than doubled the increase of 100,000 positions that economists had expected and compares to November's growth of 92,000. At 10 a.m., the Institute for Supply Management's nonmanufacturing survey for December is scheduled to be released. Wall Street is projecting that activity within the services sector rose to a reading of 55.7, from the prior month's level of 55.
Qualcomm (QCOM) agreed to buy semiconductor company Atheros Communications ( ATHR) for $45 per share, or an enterprise value of $3.1 billion. Shares of Atheros were up by 1.6% to $44.70 in premarket trading and Qualcomm's stock was ahead by 0.5% at $51.20. Shares of Mosaic ( MOS) were up 3.2% to $77.41 ahead of Wednesday's opening bell after the crop nutrients company beat second-quarter profit expectations late Thursday and said 2011 market conditions appear strong. Family Dollar Stores ( FDO) saw its stock slump 7.7% to $45.50 in early trading after it reported first-quarter net earnings of 58 cents per share on sales of $1.99 billion . Analysts had been expecting a per-share profit of 61 cents on sales of $1.98 billion. At 10:30 a.m., the Energy Information Administration will report on crude oil inventories in the week ended Dec. 31. Analysts polled by Platts are forecasting a drop of 1.25 million barrels. Late Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute, reported a drop of 7.51 million barrels in crude stockpiles. The February crude oil contract was trading 94 cents lower at $88.44 a barrel. Elsewhere in commodity markets, the February gold contract was up by $1.20 to trade at $1,380 an ounce. The dollar weakened against a basket of currencies with the dollar index up by 0.4%. The benchmark 10-year Treasury note strengthened 12/32, diluting the yield to 3.294%. . --Written by Melinda Peer in New York.