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Futures struggle for gains as Street digests jobs data

U.S. stock index futures attempted gains on Friday after initially extending losses as investors digested the latest release of U.S. jobs data. ( Tweet This )

"It indicates that investors are viewing this as a positive and playing into the hands of the Fed... The economy is growing and the Fed needs to get ahead of the yield curve. That's a positive," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital.

Dow futures initially declined about 60 points after the mostly in-line jobs report, down from an earlier level of about 30 points lower.

The report said that 215,000 jobs were added in July, with an unemployment rate of 5.3 percent. Average hourly earnings rose 0.2 percent, as expected.

"At this point I think we have to assume a September rate rise is still in the picture. This is exactly what we want to continue to see," said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer at Commonwealth Financial. "I think part of what the market is coming to terms with is a rate increase is more likely than not at this point."

Read MoreJobs report keeps Fed on track, September odds rise

Economists polled by Reuters expected an increase of 223,000 nonfarm payrolls in July, enough to allow the U.S. Federal Reserve to pull the trigger on its first rate hike in nine years.

"You get one more jobs report before (the Fed) meetings but September is solidly on the table," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.

"I would argue September's been priced in for some time," he said.

The 2-year Treasury yield briefly rose to 0.74 percent, while the 10-year yield initially ticked higher to 2.24 percent.

The dollar turned higher, with the euro lower near $1.088.

"What the (report) really does is put focus on next month's jobs report," said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones. "While they said they need 'some' (growth) they would like to see more."

The Federal Reserve said in its July statement it would need to see "some further improvement in the labor market" in order to raise rates.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

The Fed will consider a possible first rate hike at its September 16 and 17 meeting.

Around the world, central banks appear slow to want to cut their monetary stimulus. On Friday the Bank of Japan maintained the current level of its massive monetary stimulus program steady and stuck to its upbeat assessment of the economy, as expected.

On Thursday the Bank of England's monetary policy committee proved something of a damp squib for those hoping to see signs of a U.K. rate hike soon.

On the earnings front, Brookfield Asset Mgmt., Hershey and Telus are all expected before the bell. Berkshire Hathaway will report after the bell.

In oil markets, Brent crude held just below $50 a barrel, while U.S. crude extended losses to fall towards $44 a barrel, amid the jobs data and ahead of Chinese trade data over the weekend.

In Europe, markets held lower after the U.S. jobs data, with the pan-European Stoxx 600 trading down at 0.4 percent, Britain's FTSE 100 down by 0.25 percent and Germany's Dax down by 0.4 percent.

CNBC's Patti Domm contributed to this report