Stocks head for firm open after jobs

u.s. stock futures, premarket
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U.S. stocks were headed for a higher open as investors absorb the January jobs report.

The U.S. economy added 157,000 jobs last month, less than the 180,000 economists were expecting. The unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 7.9% from 7.8% in December. Economists were expecting the rate to edge lower to 7.7%.

The government revised the December jobs number significantly higher. The report showed that the economy gained 196,000 jobs during the final month of the year, up from the previous reading of just 155,000.

U.S. stock futures rose about 0.6% following the report.

Stocks have started the year strong, with the Dow gaining 5.9% in January, its the best performance for that month since 1994. Both the Dow and S&P 500 are flirting with their all-time highs reached in October 2007. The Dow is just a little more than 2% from its record high, while the S&P 500 is about 5% from its highest level.

Also on the agenda Friday, the Census Bureau will release data on December construction spending after the opening bell. The Institute for Supply Management will also publish its monthly manufacturing index, and the University of Michigan will release data on consumer sentiment.

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In corporate news, Exxon Mobil (XOM) reported better-than-expected earnings and revenue, sending shares higher.

Rival oil giant Chevron (CVX) is also on tap to report earnings.

Merck (MRK) shares declined after the company topped earnings expectations but gave a cautious outlook for 2013.

Shares of toy maker Mattel (MAT) dropped after it missed earnings and sales forecast for the fourth quarter, which includes the holiday shopping period.

Dell (DELL) shares climbed almost 5% in premarket trading after a Reuters report said the PC maker is nearing a deal to go private as early as Monday. The company, which is behind brands like Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price, said sales of Barbie brand products slipped 4% last quarter.

Zoetis, an animal-health company owned by drug giant Pfizer (PFE), will make its public debut Friday, listing on New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ZTS. The company raised $2.2 billion in its initial public offering, with shares pricing at $26 each, well above the target range. Zoetis' IPO is the largest since Facebook (FB) raised $16 billion last May.

Bringing manufacturing jobs back home
Bringing manufacturing jobs back home

European markets were higher in midday trading.

Asian markets ended mostly firmer, led by gains in Shanghai, which shrugged off the mixed news about China's manufacturing sector. Two separate purchasing managers' surveys on China showed manufacturing activity continued to expand in January, but painted a mixed picture on the pace of recovery.

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