Futures Higher After Upbeat Payroll News

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a strong open on Wednesday after good news on private sector jobs added to better-than-expected manufacturing data from China to lift investor sentiment.

In a positive sign for the labor market, the economy created 93,000 private-sector jobsin November, according to the latest report from ADP and Macroeconomic Advisors.

But planned layoffs in November were 28 percent higher than in October, the biggest increase in eight months, global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported Wednesday. The biggest number of layoffs were in the nonprofit sector.

U.S. nonfarm productivity rose at an annual rate of 2.3 percent in the third quarter, better than the 1.9 percent pace reported in November, the Labor Department said Wednesday. Productivity had contracted 1.8 percent in the second quarter.

Stocks ended the month lower in the previous session with all of the three major indexes chalking up declines for November.

European stocks were higher, rebounding from recent losses, with strong manufacturing data from the UK adding to the positive effect of China's economic data. Asian indexes closed higher.

The European debt crisis was still in focus after Standard & Poor's said it may downgrade Portugal's debt rating in 3 months. And a senior G20 source revealed to Reuters that G20 deputy finance ministers held a teleconference to discuss "the financial situation in Europe" Monday.

In the U.S., a new report warned of tough times ahead for states. The National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers said states face "extremely tight fiscal conditions" as federal support winds down.

Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned Tuesday that a long period of high unemployment could have severe social consequences.

Also on the economic front, higher mortgage rates led to a slowdown in mortgage applications last week. A seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity dropped 16.5 percent to 608.8 in the week ended Nov. 26, led by a 21.6 percent drop in refinancings, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Later, the Institute for Supply Management will release its manufacturing survey at 10 a.m. and the Energy Information Administration will release its reading of crude oil and gasoline inventories at 10:30 am.

The Federal Reserve's Beige Book, a region-by-region look at the nation's economy, will be out at 2 p.m.

In other news, the Fed has to disclose the names of banksthat borrowed from the central bank during the financial crisis today.

In corporate news, American Express rose after news JPMorgan started covering the financial firm with an "overweight" rating and a price target of $50. The brokerage also began covering Discover Financial and Capital One with "neutral" ratings.

On Tap This Week:

WEDNESDAY: Auto sales, ISM manufacturing index, construction spending, oil inventories, Beige Book, Fed vice chair Yellen speaks
THURSDAY: ECB announcement, jobless claims, pending home sales, Philadelphia Fed Pres Plosser speaks, Fed Gov. Duke speaks, chain-store sales; Earnings from Toll Brothers, Del Monte and Kroger
FRIDAY: Employment situation, factory orders, ISM non-manufacturing index

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