Futures Add to Gains on Jobs Improvement

Stock index futures indicated a positive open, helped by data showing that both the layoffs in October and the expected pace of job cuts improving.

Separate reports from ADP Employer Services and Challenger, Gray & Christmas respectively showed a loss of 203,000 jobs in October and planned layoffs in the month hitting a 19-month low.

Futures had been higher and added to their gains following the release of the numbers.

Earlier, the Mortgage Bankers Association said applications for home loans increasedafter interest rates slipped below 5 percent.

Elsewhere, Fed policymakers will conclude their two-day meeting by issuing a statement at about 2:15 pm New York time, and as usual, investors will be looking for any indications that the Fed is at least telegraphing when it might consider raising interest rates that are currently near zero and exiting the various measures instituted to deal with the financial crisis.

Winterizing Your Portfolio - A CNBC Special Report
Winterizing Your Portfolio - A CNBC Special Report

Also out today will be the ISM nonmanufacturing index (10 am), which measures the strength of the U.S. service economy. Consensus forecasts call for an ISM number of 51.6, above the 50 figure that marks the dividing line between expansion and contraction. That would also be above last month's reading of 50.9.

At 10:30 am, we'll get the usual Wednesday reading on oil and gasoline inventories from the Energy Department's Energy Information Agency.

On this morning's earnings calendar: Automatic Data Processing, Comcast, Devon Energy, Garmin, Marsh & McLennan, Pulte Homes, Molson Coors, and Time Warner.

Investors are also looking ahead to important after-the-bell reports from Dow component Cisco Systems, News Corp., Qualcomm, and Whole Foods .

Oracle and Sun Microsystems could be stocks to watch today, as the Financial Times reports that the European Union is close to formally objecting to Oracle's $7.4 billion takeover of Sun on antitrust grounds -- which could be a step on the way to blocking the deal.

Dow component Kraft beat estimates with its after-the-bell earnings late yesterday, and also upped its earnings forecast.

Auto industry news: Nissan is changing its annual loss forecast to a profit, Toyota is bailing out of Formula One racing because of the weak economy, and General Motorshas decided to keep its EuropeanOpel unit rather than selling it.

- Written by Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk