NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- U.S. stocks were poised to take a small step back Wednesday, the final day of a first quarter bolstered by a strong month of March, as a disappointing report on the job market failed to lift investor confidence.
Dow Jones industrial average, S&P 500, and Nasdaq 100 futures were slightly lower.
Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance and offer an indication of how markets may open when trading begins.
Stocks ended a little higher Tuesday, pushing the Dow to a fresh 18-month high as investors digested mixed reports showing a rise in consumer confidence and continued weakness in the housing market.
Wall Street will reach the end of what has been a fairly solid March. Going into the final session, the Dow is up 5.7% this month, giving the index a 4.5% gain for the quarter.
Economy: ADP released its monthly report on employment before the opening bell, showing that private-sector employers cut 23,000 jobs in March. This was in sharp contrast to expectations of a 40,000 job increase, according to economists surveyed by Briefing.com. This is after cutting a revised 20,000 in February.
ADP has not reported an increase in monthly payroll numbers since January 2008, when 34,000 private-sector jobs were added.
The Chicago PMI, a regional reading on manufacturing, is due at 9:45 a.m. ET. Economists predict the index fell to a reading of 61 in March from 62.6 in February.
Research in Motion (RIMM) reports quarterly earnings after the close of trade. The BlackBerry maker is expected to have earned $1.28 per share versus 90 cents a year earlier.
World markets: Asian stocks finished lower. In Japan, the Nikkei index lost 0.1%, and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong slipped 0.6%.
In Europe, London's FTSE 100, France's CAC 40 and Germany's DAX all advanced.
The dollar and commodities: The dollar retreated against the pound but rose against the euro and the yen.
Bonds: Treasury prices were little changed, with the 10-year yield holding at around 3.87%.
|Overnight Avg Rate||Latest||Change||Last Week|
|30 yr fixed||4.40%||4.29%|
|15 yr fixed||3.81%||3.72%|
|30 yr refi||4.36%||4.26%|
|15 yr refi||3.79%||3.69%|
Today's featured rates:
General Electric is finally giving demoralized shareholders and employees a reason for hope. More
US regulators are close to slapping Wells Fargo with a $1 billion fine for forcing customers into car insurance and charging mortgage borrowers unfair fees. More
Randall Stephenson shares details about AT&T Watch, which is expected to launch soon. More
In 1998, Ntsiki Biyela won a scholarship to study wine making. Now she's about to launch her own brand. More
A plan that lowers your student loan payments and offers some forgiveness isn't always the best choice. More