U.S. stock index futures turned negative after a report showed the private sector actually shed jobs in March, defying expectations for a turnaround in the employment picture.
ADP said March employment fell 23,000, in contrast for expectations of a gain of around 50,000. Despite the drop, Friday's nonfarm payrolls number could still show a strong gain, largely due to heavy Census worker hiring.
Wednesday is the last day of trading of the first quarter and ahead of the latest reading of private sector unemployment.
The major averages are about to wrap up their second consecutive month of gains and their fourth consecutive quarter of advances. The Dow and the S&P 500 are also likely to register their best first quarters in a decade.
European stocks were largely in the green, with banks and energy-related stocks gaining. Asian markets closed mostly in negative territory, but the Nikkei 225 managed to end flat.
ADP will be out with its monthly read of private sector employment at 8:15 am New York time, with economists expecting the economy to have added 50,000 new jobs this month. That would follow a loss of 20,000 jobs last month, though the prior month's number is often revised significantly.
At 9:45 am, the Chicago Purchasing Manager's Index will be issued, with consensus forecasts calling for a reading of 60.8, down slightly from February's 62.6. Shortly afterward, at 10 am, the government is out with February factory orders, expected to rise 0.3 percent after a 1.7 percent advance in January.
At 10:30 am, the Energy Department will release its weekly report on oil and gasoline inventories, and at 7 am, the Mortgage Bankers Association is out with its weekly read on mortgage applications.
Fed Governor Elizabeth Duke and Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart are both scheduled to give speeches at 12:30 pm at separate events. Late Tuesday, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher said the U.S. economic recovery is on good footing, but this is not yet the time to sell assets or hike interest rates.
In corporate news, Dow component Chevron won a three-year old arbitration fight in Ecuador.
Baker Hughes was also in the news, as it finalizes an agreement with the Department of Justice that will allow its planned takeover of rival BJ Services to proceed.
Wednesday's most notable earnings reports come after the closing bell, as the latest quarter numbers from Blackberry maker Research In Motion and Micron Technology are released.
- Written by Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk.