Stock index futures slid lower after initially trading flat despite a better-than-expected rise in private-sector hiring last month, but as clashes took place between governrment supporters and protesters in Egypt.
Private employers added 187,000 jobs in January, slipping from a downwardly revised gain of 247,000 jobs in December, according to ADP Employer Services. Originally, ADP reported 297,000 jobs were added in December. Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected employers to add 145,000 jobs last month.
Today's lackluster tone follows a strong trading day on Tuesday that saw the Dow close above 12,000 for the first time since June 2008, spurred on by strong January manufacturing data.
In other jobs news, planned layoffs rose to 38,519 in January, up 20 percent from December, but employers still planned the fewest number of cuts for January since outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas began the survey in 1993, the firm said Wednesday.
Also in economic news, the Mortgage Bankers Association'sseasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity rose 11.3 percent in the week ended Jan. 28. Refinancings rose 11.7 percent, while requests for loans for home purchases gained 9.5 percent.
In company news, shares ofWal-Mart Stores
fell 0.5 percent in before-hours trading after Deutsche Bank downgraded the stock to "hold" from "buy," and lowered its price target to $60 a share from $66.
Deutsche moved to "equal weight" on retail stocks, saying that the recovery scenario is now baked into valuations.
Meanwhile, the political unrest in Egyptremained in focus as supporters of President Hosni Mubarak clashed with protesters. Mubarak pledged Tuesday evening not to stand for re-election in September, a move greeted with a lack of enthusiasm by protesters who have been callling for him to step down immediately.
Meanwhile, Internet service has resumedin Cairo and Alexandria after it was cut off in the wake of the protests last week.
Concerns that the turmoil will spread across the Middle East persisted after Jordan’s King Abdullah II fired his governmenton Tuesday following protests and asked a former prime minister to form a new cabinet.
Weekly crude inventories are reported at 10:30 a.m. and will drive oil trading on Wednesday.
Oil rose Wednesdayon concerns that unrest in Egypt would trigger regime change across the Middle East and North Africa, the source of more than a third of the world's oil.
Also on the Wednesday’s agenda is another slew of earnings, with Time Warner, Nasdaq OMX, Whirlpool, Marathon Oil, Mattel and Wisconsin Energy among companies reporting before the bell.