Dow Flat Before Key Jobs Report

LONDON -- Stock index futures at 7 a.m. EST indicate that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) may open broadly flat, down by a nominal seven points, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) may open unchanged.

Today's jobs data may reignite Wednesday's rally, but this is far from certain. December's nonfarm payroll report is due at 8:30 a.m. EST and is expected to show that 160,000 new jobs were created in the final month of 2012, up from 146,000 in November. Also at 8:30 a.m. EST, December's unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged at 7.7%, while at 10 a.m. EST, the ISM nonmanufacturing PMI for December is expected to read 54, down from 54.7 in November. November's factory orders, due at 10 a.m. EST, are expected to have risen by 0.3% following a 0.8% increase in October.

Companies whose stock may be actively traded today include Finish Line and Mosaic, both of which are due to report quarterly earnings before the bell. Mosaic is expected to report a big fall in profit after it reduced its forecasts for fertilizer sales in November. Pharmaceutical heavyweight Eli Lilly may also see active trading, as it is expected to release its 2013 guidance to analysts today.

European markets
In Europe, markets drifted lower as investors reacted to the uncertain outlook implied by the FOMC minutes. Economic news from the eurozone was fairly neutral: Inflation is expected to have remained unchanged at 2.2% in December, according to a European Union flash estimate, while the December Markit PMI for the eurozone service sector rose to 47.8 from 46.7 in November, indicating that the eurozone remains in recession. However, Germany's service sector returned to growth, with the PMI reading rising to 52 from 49.7 in November.

At 7:30 a.m. EST, the DAX was down 0.2%, the CAC 40 was down 0.39%, the FTSE MIB was down 0.42%, and the IBEX 35 was up 0.14%. In London, the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE  ) was up just more than a point. Oil giant BP topped the leaderboard, gaining 1.4% on news that its Gulf of Mexico contractor, Transocean, has reached a lower-than-expected settlement with the Department of Justice, while silver producer Fresnillo led the fallers, losing 5.7% after silver prices fell and the company's stock was downgraded to "neutral" by UBS.

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