- ADP: US added 238k jobs in December, ahead of expectations
- Fed minutes due out later on
- Mulally to stay with Ford, quashes Microsoft rumours
Dow Jones: -0.28%
S&P 500: -0.12%
US markets opened in a mixed fashion on Wednesday as investors digested a report which showed employers added more jobs than expected in December.
The report from ADP Research Institute revealed an extra 238,000 jobs last month, up from an upwardly-revised 229,000 in November, surprising economists who had expected a fall to 200,000.
The ADP report is often seen as a rough indicator of the official non-farm payroll figures released on Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
"While the frequent revisions and methodology of the ADP employment report limit its usefulness for forecasting the BLS employment report on a month-to-month basis, this report does suggest some modest upside risk to our forecast of a 175k increase in headline payrolls and a 175k increase in private payrolls in the BLS employment report released on Friday," said analyst Cooper Howes from Barclays.
Federal Reserve policymakers are using economic data, particularly from the labour market, to determine whether the US economy is ready for a further tapering of monetary stimulus at its meeting this month.
Minutes from the December 17th-18th meeting - when the Fed reduced its monthly bond purchases to $75bn from $85bn - will be released later today and are likely to shed further light on the central bank's decision to scale back quantitative easing. Investors are also hoping that minutes will give more insight into the Fed's future plans to gradually withdraw its stimulus programme.
In other economic data, US mortgage applications rose 2.6% in the week to January 3rd, compared to the previous week's revised 4.2% decline.
Ford jumps as Mulally quashes Microsoft rumours
US auto giant Ford Motor rallied after Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally bowed out of the race for the top job at Microsoft Corp. "I would like to end the Microsoft speculation because I have no other plans to do anything other than serve Ford," he said in an interview with the Associated Press. Shares in the software group fell after the open.
Micron Technology advanced as the US maker of memory chips reported quarterly revenue that exceeded analysts' estimates.
Forest Laboratories was up after agreeing to buy Aptalis for $2.9bn to expand in gastrointestinal and cystic fibrosis treatments.
Tenet Healthcare slumped after Raymond James Financial downgraded the shares
to 'market perform' from 'outperform'. Meanwhile, social media firm Twitter dropped sharply after analysts at Cantor Fitzgerald cut the stock from 'hold' to 'sell'.
Shares of CEC Entertainment surged on rumours that the restaurant and entertainment group is considering a potential sale, according to Reuters.
Aluminium producer Alcoa edged higher ahead of the release of its fourth-quarter results tomorrow evening, which traditionally marks the start of the new earnings reporting season on Wall Street.