Stocks set to drop on weak jobs report

@CNNMoneyInvest May 2, 2012: 9:08 AM ET
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Click on chart to track premarkets

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks were set to open lower Wednesday as investors focused on a weak private-sector jobs report.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures were lower. Stock futures indicate the possible direction of the markets when they open at 9:30 a.m. ET.

A day after a strong report on manufacturing activity pushed the Dow to its highest close since December 2007, investors were looking for further reassurance that the U.S. recovery is on solid ground.

But they didn't get it from payroll processor ADP, which reported tepid private sector job growth in April, knocking the bottom out of the futures market. That comes before the government's monthly jobs report due Friday.

Fears about a so-called hard landing in China, a stalled U.S. recovery and a flare-up in Europe's debt crisis have been weighing on investors in recent weeks, leading to the worst monthly returns of the year in April.

In corporate news, investors showed little reaction to earnings results from Comcast (CMCSA, Fortune 500), CNNMoney parent Time Warner (TWX, Fortune 500) and CVS Caremark (CVS, Fortune 500), even though they all exceeded expectations.

Economy: The ADP report showed that the private sector added 119,000 jobs in April. That's considerably less than the forecast of 170,000 new jobs, according to a survey of analysts by Briefing.com. It's also a significant decline from the prior month, when the private sector added 201,000 jobs.

Factory orders for the month of March are expected to have dropped by 1.8%.

World markets: European stocks were mixed in morning trading. Britain's FTSE 100 (UKX) slid 0.6%, while stocks rose in the two major markets that missed Tuesday's rally since they were closed for the May Day holiday -- the DAX (DAX) in Germany added 0.8% and France's CAC 40 (CAC40) rose 0.7%.

Unemployment across the 27-nation European Union remained at 10.2% in March, according to a government report Wednesday. But the 17-nation eurozone unemployment edged higher to 10.9%, from 10.8% in February. Both are record high rates for those areas since the creation of the common currency.

There are now 13 European nations struggling with double digit unemployment, led by a 24.1% rate in Spain and 21.7% in Greece.

On a brighter note, Standard & Poor's raised its ratings on Greece to "CCC," pulling the country out of selective default after it successfully exchanged its distressed debt.

Readings were a bit better in Asia, as a closely watched measure of manufacturing activity in China improved slightly. But the HSBC survey of manufacturing executives still came in at 49.3 for April. While that's up from 48.3 in March, it is just below the 50 mark that indicates either growth or contraction in that key sector.

Asian markets all ended higher. The Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) gained 1.8%, the Hang Seng (HSI) in Hong Kong rose 1.3% and Japan's Nikkei (N225) ticked up 0.3%.

Companies: Comcast reported quarterly earnings that beat expectations. The cable company announced earnings of 45 cents per share on revenue of $14.9 billion. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected Comcast to post quarterly earnings of 42 cents a share on $14.4 billion in revenue.

Time Warner reported quarterly earnings of 67 cents per share on revenue of $7 billion, surpassing expectations. A consensus of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had forecasted an EPS of 64 cents with a revenue of $6.8 billion.

CVS reported adjusted earnings of 65 cents per share for the quarter and revenue of $30.8 billion. The company was projected to report earnings of 63 cents a share on $30.3 billion in revenue, according to Thomson Reuters.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar gained against the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen.

Oil for June delivery slipped 28 cents to $105.88 a barrel.

Gold futures for June delivery fell $2.70 to $1,659.70 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury slipped slightly, but the yield held steady at the 1.96%.

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