U.S. stock index futures fell after news fewer jobs were created in December than expected, but the unemployment rate fell to 9.4 percent.
Only 103,000 jobs were createdon nonfarm payrolls in December, far less than the 175,000 economists had expected, while private sectors jobs rose by 113,000, the Labor Department reported.
The unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in more than 1 1/2 years, from 9.8 percent in November. Economists surveyed by Reuters expected the unemployment rate to fall to 9.7 percent.
Figures for employment in October and November, however, were revised by the government to show 70,000 more jobs were added than previously reported.
"While disappointing, it's not enough to derail the thought that the economy is improving," Dan McMahon, Dan McMahon, director of equity trading at Raymond James. told CNBC.com.
Also, he added, "there's always a lot of uncertainty in the December payroll figures."
The market is unlikely to show much reaction until after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks later this morning, McMahon said. Bernanke was scheduled to appear before the Senate Budget Committee at 9:30 am for a Congressional testimony.
But, he added, the employment data isn't enough to make the Fed change its views that rates should remain low, or to change investor views the economy is strengthening.
"What is painfully obvious is the main mission of both quantitative easing packages is failing," said Todd Schoenberger, managing director at LandColt Trading. "The intent of improving the wealth effect while stimulating job growth is not working, thus possibly forcing the hand of Chairman Bernanke to craft another strategy. Now that we are heading into a seasonal lull for the economy, one can only expect the coming months to be just as disappointing."
Also on the economic front, November's consumer credit results will be released at 3 p.m. with economists expecting a decline of $2.5 billion, according to Briefing.com.
In company news, Citigroup was seeking buyers forCitiFinancial, according to a report in the Financial Times. The deal could raise hundreds of millions of dollars, the paper said.
And American International Group agreed in principle to settle a lawsuit over alleged under-reporting of premiums on workers' compensation policies, court documents showed.
Liz Claiborne shares tumbled after the apparel maker lowered its earnings forecast in the second have disappointing December sales. The company said operating profits in the second half would rise by $40 million to $50 million instead of the previous estimate of $80 million.
Best Buy's shares rose slightly despite reporting a 4 percent drop in same-store sales.
In earnings news, KB Homes jumped after news the homebuilder had an unexpected profit in its fiscal fourth quarter. The company delivered 37 percent fewer homes, but increased sales prices by 14 percent.
European shares were mostly lower after reaching multi-year highs in the previous session. Asian indexes ended mixed, but mostly in the red. Japanese stocks managed to make slight gains.
"The markets are a bit ahead of themselves for the short term … The chance of the market going up and staying up are pretty much zero, so I think that any gain we get from here will be given back," Charlie Morris, head of absolute return at HSBC Global Asset Management, told CNBC.
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