Futures Slide as Jobs Picture Weakens

Stocks were headed for a slightly lower open after an early reading on August employment numbers showed the labor market weaker than expected.

ADP Employer Services said private employers cut 298,000 jobs in August, fewer than a revised 360,000 jobs lost in July but considerably worse than expectations of 250,000.

non-farm productivity was stronger than initially thought in the second quarter as companies slashed costs to protect profits, data showed on Wednesday.

The Labor Department said non-farm productivity rose at a 6.6 percent annual rate, rather than the 6.4 percent pace it reported last month. That was the biggest increase since the third quarter of 2003.

The early news cycle was otherwise fairly quiet as the market looks to rebound from a tough start to its worst month from a historical standpoint.

Tuesday's losses were the worst one-day drops since Aug. 17, the Dow's three-day losing streak is its longest since June 24, and the size of its three-day drop is the biggest since July 7.

The bulk of the losses came from the financial sector as investors got the jitters from whispers that another major bank failure was in the works.

Wednesday could be another rough day for the group, with the SPDR Financial ETF edging negative in premarket trading.

Oil prices, a fairly reliable tracking device for the stock market since the rally off the March lows, edged lower as well to below $68 a barrel.

At 10 am, July factory orders will be released, with economists expecting a 1.8 percent increase. At 10:30 am, the Energy Department will be out with its weekly oil inventory numbers.

Once the morning data is out of the way, investors will be waiting for 2 pm, when the FOMC releases the minutes of its most recent meeting. They'll be looking for the latest Fed commentary on the economy, and perhaps more importantly, any insight on a planned exit strategy from the extraordinary measures implemented to deal with the financial crisis.

Ahead of those FOMC minutes, Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart will give a speech at Emory University on the crisis and how the Fed has dealt with it. That speech is scheduled for 11:30 am.

Oil company BP could be a stock to watch, as the company announces what it terms a "giant" oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico. ConocoPhillips is also a partner in that project.

- Written by Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC.com