Stocks Futures Rise After December Jobs Data

Andrea Tse

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stock futures were heating up Friday after the official December nonfarm payrolls report showed a greater number of jobs added than expected.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 9 points, or 5.64 points above fair value, at 13,328. Futures for the S&P 500 were up 2.25 points, or 1.98 points above fair value, at 1455. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 7.75 points, or 6.49 points above fair value, at 2733.

Major U.S. stock averages dipped Thursday following a downtrodden tone from the latest minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, the policy-making wing of the Federal Reserve. The surprise news outweighed stronger-than-expected employment data for December and a number of upbeat monthly retail-sales reports.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday that nonfarm payrolls rose by 155,000 in December, down from an upwardly revised 161,000 in November. Economists, on average, were expecting nonfarm payrolls to increase by 150,000 in December.

The jobless rate held at 7.8%, after the prior month's figure was upwardly revised from 7.7%. It was expected to come in at 7.7%.

Average hourly earnings rose 0.3%, the same as the prior month's upwardly revised data. They were expected to have risen 0.2%.

The average workweek inched up to 34.5 hours from 34.4 hours. Hours worked were expected to stay at 34.4 hours.

The widely watched U.S. government jobs report offered a more encouraging tone than previously expected after Thursday's better-than-expected ADP employment change report for December as well as improvements in the ISM manufacturing employment index and in online help-wanted advertising. Economists noted that the impact of Hurricane Sandy on jobs was dissipating.

But overall jobs growth is expected to stay on the softer side due to the tepid conclusion of the holiday shopping season and "fiscal-cliff" related weakness in December business and consumer sentiment.

At 10 a.m. EST, the Commerce Department is predicted to report that factory orders rose 0.4% in November after being up 0.8% in September.

Simultaneously, the ISM services report is expected to register 54.2% in December, below 54.7% in November.

Looking into the first quarter, Steve Billimack, Chicago advisory group managing partner and director at Hightower, said that he expects volatility, as "intense political debate around the sequester and the debt limit are watched and evaluated for any real structural reform by the private sector, rating agencies and the markets."

"It was great to see a relief rally January 2nd after avoiding the worst case fiscal cliff scenarios. The rally also benefited from the late 2012 trend of broad-based global central bank stimulus," Billimack said. "While the Biden/McConnell compromise showed modest cooperation to extend tax cuts, the debate re-intensifies with the new Congress having to address the more difficult issues of both spending cuts and the debt limit."

Gold for February delivery was plunging Friday by $42.70 at $1,631.90 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while February crude oil contracts were down $1.16 at $91.76 a barrel.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was down 11/32, raising the yield to 1.962%. The dollar was up 0.54%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

The FTSE 100 in London was down 0.04%, while the DAX in Germany was off 0.18%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed down 0.29%. The Nikkei Average in Japan soared 2.82% as traders came back from a four-day holiday and the first day of trading in 2013 with optimism about unfolding big stimulus programs.

In corporate news Sonic(:SONC) said late Thursday that fiscal first-quarter profit rose 12% from a year earlier to $6.1 million, or 11 cents a share, on revenue of $126 million.

The results were roughly in line with Wall Street estimates.

Shares were tumbling more than 5%.

Progress Software(:PRGS) posted fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday of $36 million, or 57 cents a share, on revenue of $91.3 million, compared with year-earlier profit of $12.2 million, or 19 cents a share, on revenue of $93.5 million.

Adjusted profit in the latest fourth quarter was 23 cents a share; analysts expected 34 cents a share.

Progress Software said it expects first-quarter revenue to be flat with the year-earlier quarter.

Shares were slumping by more than 4%.

Coinstar (:CSTR) announced Thursday the unexpected retirement of CEO Paul Davis.

The owner of the Redbox movie-rental kiosks named Chief Financial Officer J. Scott Di Valerio as its new CEO. He will take over on March 31.

Shares were down more than 2.5%.

Eli Lilly(:LLY) shares were rising 1.1% after the drug maker forecast fiscal 2013 earnings of $3.75 to $3.90 a share, surpassing the Wall Street prediction of $3.71.

Finish Line(:FINL) shares were diving more than 7% after the athletic shoes and apparel retailer booked breakeven earnings in the third quarter, which were below the average analyst estimate of 10 cents a share, as the company faced challenges including changes in footwear trends and cool reception to its new e-commerce site.

Fertilizer company Mosaic(:MOS) said that its quarterly operating profit declined 30%, driven by lower phosphate volumes and prices and partially offset by lower raw material costs.

"International shipments ... were impacted by prolonged contract negotiations in India and China," said Jim Prokopanko, CEO of Mosaic, in a statement. "With the settled China contract driving improved sentiment, we believe strong agricultural fundamentals will lead to strengthening crop nutrient markets."

Google(:GOOG) and the Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday a deal to end the federal agency's nearly two-year old antitrust probe. The search engine leader has agreed to make voluntary changes to its current Internet search practices.

Google reportedly has agreed to allow advertisers to have more say over how their ads appear on the search results listings page. The Internet giant also agreed to limit the use of reviewers' "snippets" and other quotes gathered from rival providers.

Shares were up 0.43% in premarket trading.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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