U.S. stock futures edged slightly higher Tuesday as investors digested a lackluster September jobs report, which was delayed because of the federal government shutdown.
The report showed that the economy gained 148,000 jobs last month, far fewer than the 183,000 economists were expecting. The unemployment rate ticked down to 7.2%, the lowest November 2008.
The weak numbers suggest that the U.S. economic recovery remains fragile, and the Federal Reserve will likely maintain the pace of its massive stimulus program, which entails $85 billion in bond purchases each month, for a bit longer.
Improvement in the jobs market is a vital factor for the Fed's decision to begin tapering, or scaling back its bond buying program. Most economists forecast the central bank won't begin tapering until 2014.
However, because the September report wasn't affected by the shutdown, it may not have the same impact on the Fed's thinking as October's report.
Global markets were relatively subdued Tuesday. European markets diverged, with U.K. stocks edging up, while indexes in France and Germany slipped. Asian markets were also mixed, with stocks in Hong Kong falling after a weak earnings report from heavyweight China Mobile, while Japan inched higher.