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Futures Get Lift From Jobs Numbers

Stock market futures pointed to a slightly higher open at the start of trading Wednesday on signs that the nation's employment picture was getting a bit brighter.

Private-sector job losses hit 20,000 in February, down from a sharp upward revision of 60,000 for January, ADP reported and less than analyst expected. At the same time, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported that planned layoffs hit 42,090, their lowest level in four years.

The news gave a bit of a lift to futures that were wandering around fair value levels for most of the morning's trading.

Netflix was among the actively traded stocks premarket, with the online movie rental service falling 4 percent after Bank of America-Merrill Lynch cut the company two notches to underperform. BofA-Merrill said the company would have to nearly triple its subscriber base to justify its current stock price.

Also, Pfizer said an Alzheimer's drug it was developing with Medivation failed to reach goals in a late-stage study. Pfizer shares dipped 1.5 percent premarket but Medivation tumbled nearly 70 percent.

There are notable economic releases later in the day as well. The Institute for Supply Management issues its non-manufacturing index at 10 am, with that measure of the U.S. services economy forecast to come in at 50.5, identical to the February reading. And at 2 pm, the Federal Reserve issues its Beige Book, the region-by-region assessment of the nation's economy.

Ahead of the Beige Book release, there's no shortage of Fed speakers on the calendar. Both Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser (8 am) and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren (9:15 am) will speak at a Philadelphia conference, while Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher will speak at 8 am in New York. At 1 pm, both Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart and Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker will give speeches in New York.

Retailers Costco and Big Lots could be stocks to watch, with Big Lots set to release quarterly earnings, and Costco's already out. Costco's quarterly profit of 67 cents a share was five cents short of consensus, but February same-store sales rose a better than expected 9 percent.

Japan's Nissan is recalling 540,000 vehicles, to deal with potential defects in break pedal pins and fuel gauge components. The company says no accidents or injuries have been reported due to these issues.

In the news, the Senate approved a bill to resume aid to unemployed Americans, after a dispute with Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) that had held the bill up was resolved.

And Greece's cabinet has approved a sweeping new austerity program, as it seeks to rein in its budget deficit and win financial support from its EU neighbors.

- Written by Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk.