Wall Street wants a ho-hum jobs report, strong enough to show the economy isn't toppling over but not strong enough to pressure the Fed to raise rates any time soon.
Economists expect 190,000 nonfarm payrolls in February's employment report, and the unemployment rate to stay unchanged at 4.9 percent, when the data is released at 8:30 a.m. ET Friday, according to Thomson Reuters. The report comes on the heels of a batch of economic reports that have been better than expected but not stunningly good.
"This stability in markets was going to be dependent on whether the U.S. data continues to hold up. Payrolls is kind of the exclamation mark on the state of the U.S. economy, as of now. I think it does have the ability to entrench the current trends, meaning the rebound (in markets)," said John Briggs, head of strategy at RBS. "If it's lower than expected, I don't think we're going back to the Feb. 11 mentality but it's going to be challenging to the arguments that maybe the Fed should get back on track." Feb. 11 was the day the S&P 500, oil futures and Treasury yields all set lows.