Stock index futures pared losses to trade flat amid a report on private sector job growth that was a little weaker than expected.
The ADP Employment Reportshowed a gain of 179,000 jobs in April, down from a revised gain of 207,000 in March. The March gain was previously reported as 201,000. Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected a gain of 200,000.
Earlier, Challenger, Gray & Christmas said employers planned to fire 12 percent fewer employees in April than they did in March, 5 percent fewer than a year ago. The number of job cuts at 36,490 is the lowest total of the year.
In other economic news, falling interest rates spurred a pickup in mortgage loan activity. The Mortgage Bankers Association's weekly index of mortgage loan and refinancing activty rose 4 percent in the week ended April 29.
Ralcorp Holdings , surged after news ConAgra Foods has proposed to buy the maker of Post brand cereals and other food products for $4.9 billion in cash. ConAgra, which owns Dennison’s and Swiss Miss brands as well as commercial food products, also gained.
April retail sales trends were mixed as signs emerged that rising gas prices were beginning to effect consumer behavior, according to the SpendingPulse report from Mastercard Advisors. Apparel sales rose 10.4 percent in April from a year ago, while e-commerce spending surged 19.2 percent last month from a year earlier.
In earnings news, Kellogg fell after earnings fell shy of expectations, while Time Warner fell despite delivering better-than-expected results, thanks to a boost in advertising sales at the entertainment company's cable TV networks.
, the world’s biggest brewer,fell despitereporting higher revenue and profitfor the first quarter thanks to higher prices.
Comcast and CBS traded higher Wednesday after both reported a rise in first-quarter profit after the bell on Tuesday. CNBC is 51 percent owned by Comcast.
In initial public offerings, RenRen, a Chinese social networking company, was priced at $14 a share, the high end of expectations. The deal is expected to be effective at 9 a.m. under the symbol "RENN."
And Dunkin Brands, owner of Dunkin Donuts and Baskin & Robbins,filed to launch an IPO of up to $400 million on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol "DNKN."
Also in Europe, Portuguese bond yields fell afterPortugal agreed a three-year 78-billion-euro ($116 billion) bailoutwith the European Union and International Monetary Fund.
Investors will now look ahead to the European Central Bank’s meeting on Thursday. The bank is expected to keep rates on hold after raising rates in April.
Commodity prices fell on Wednesday amid concerns over an economic slowdown in India, and slight strengthening in th edollar. Resource and energy stocks fell as well.
Commodity trader Glencore set a price range of 480-580 pence per share for its initial public offering. The first day of trading in London will be May 19. The price range values the company at around $61 billion at the mid-point of the range.
At 10 a.m., the Institute of Supply Management's non-manufacturing index will be released. It is expected to increase slightly to a reading of 57.4 from 57.3, according to Briefing.com. Weekly crude inventories will be reported by the govenrment at 10:30 a.m.
On Tap This Week:
WEDNESDAY: ISM non-manufacturing index, oil inventories, Fed's Lockhart speaks; earnings after-the-bell from Electronic Arts, MetLife, News Corp, Transocean and Whole Foods.
THURSDAY: Bank of England rate announcement, European Central Bank announcement, chain store sales, jobless claims, productivity and costs, Treasury STRIPS, money supply; Fed Chairman Bernanke speaks, Fed's Kocherlakota speaks, UPS shareholder meeting, Verizon shareholder meeting; earnings before-the-bell from GM, Cigna, CVS Caremark and after-the-bell from AIG, Kraft and Visa.
FRIDAY: Non-farm payroll report, consumer credit, Alcoa shareholder meeting, flash crash anniversary; earnings before-the-bell from Constellation Energy and tentatively after-the-bell from Berkshire Hathaway.
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