Stock Futures Rise on February Jobs Increase

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were pointing to a higher open Friday as the February jobs report beat expectations.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were rising 32 points, or 44.1 points above fair value, at 12,876. Futures for the S&P 500 were up 4 points, or 4.8 points above fair value, at 1365, and futures for the Nasdaq were ahead by 5.8 points, or 6 points above fair value, at 2639.

Stocks posted a second day of gains Thursday after a steep selloff earlier in the week as investors speculated that Greece was successful in its debt swap efforts.

This week's series of employment data concluded Friday with the government's nonfarm payrolls report, which show continued growth, albeit at a slightly slower pace of 227,000 in February compared with an upwardly revised increase of 284,000 the preceding month. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters were expecting growth of 210,000. The unemployment rate stayed at 8.3% last month.

"The gains were a tad better than expectations, but with upward revisions, so it was a strong report," says David Ader, a strategist at CRT Capital Group.

"This is a very strong report," Eric Green, chief economist at TD Securities agreed.

Coming out at the same time as the jobs report was the international trade numbers. The Department of Commerce said that the U.S. trade deficit widened to $52.57 billion in January, its highest level in more than three years, after deepening to $50.42 billion in December. Economists had expected the trade deficit to widen to $49 billion in January.

Previously it was reported that the trade deficit was $48.8 billion in December.

The Commerce Department also is scheduled to report wholesale inventories for January at 10 a.m. Economists are expecting a rise of 0.6% compared with an increase of 1% in December.

In Europe, Greece appeared on its way to clearing all the hurdles to the country's ability to receive a new, €130 billion rescue package and avoid a disorderly default. The Greek Finance Ministry said Friday that the participation in the €206 billion debt restructuring deal -- history's biggest sovereign debt restructuring -- has cleared its target rate, rising to 95.7% after the government received permission to activate collective action clauses forcing investors to participate and take steep losses in the debt swap.

Eurozone finance ministers will be meeting in Brussels next to discuss whether the swap was successful enough to award Greece with its second bailout package.

Despite the positive news out of Greece, the euro was falling 0.6% against the dollar as the markets refocused some of its attention towards the other troubled eurozone nations and weak growth outlook for the eurozone economy.

London's FTSE was down 0.88%, and Germany's DAX was up 0.16% on Friday. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei Average finished up 1.65% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed higher by 0.89%.

In U.S. corporate news, Starbucks ( SBUX) plans to sell a single-cup coffee machine that will go on sale this fall online, at high-end specialty stores and at some Starbucks cafes. Starbucks' Verismo is a blow to Green Mountain Coffee Roasters ( GMCR), the maker of the Keurig single-serve machines. Starbucks started selling K-cup packs for the Keurig machines last November. "This is not about any disappointment with Green Mountain; it's about controlling our own destiny." Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said. "They can and they will co-exist."

Texas Instruments ( TXN) slashed its first-quarter guidance, saying it still sees a reduction in demand for its wireless products. The Dallas-based chipmaker lowered its first-quarter earnings outlook to 15 cents to 19 cents a share on revenue of between $2.99 billion to $3.11 billion. It had previously expected earnings of 16 cents to 24 cents a share on revenue of $3.02 billion to $3.28 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters forecast Texas Instruments to report first-quarter earnings of 31 cents a share on revenue of $3.16 billion.

Altera ( ALTR), the programmable chipmaker, said first-quarter revenue would be down 7% to 9% sequentially, implying revenue of about $421 million. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters forecast revenue of $427 million. The company previously said first-quarter revenue would fall 5% to 9% from the fourth quarter. Altera cited soft demand in its wireless and military businesses for the revenue shortfall.

April oil futures were rising 22 cents to $106.80 a barrel, while April gold futures were adding $2.20 to $1,700.90 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was trading sideways at a yield of 2.017%, while the U.S. dollar index was up 0.4% at $79.43.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.
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