Futures Lose Steam After February Jobs News

U.S. stock index futures lost ground after initially rising on the news of strong February job gains, a day after stocks soared on Thursday.

The Labor Department reported nonfarm payrolls added 192,000 jobsin February, while the private sector added 222,000, largely in line with expectations. The unemployment rate fell to 8.9 percent, the lowest since April 2009.

The number of jobs added in January rose to 63,000 from the 36,000 first reported.

Economists surveyed by Reuters expected payrolls to rise by 185,000 with some investors expecting a reading above 200,000. The unemployment rate was expected to have risen to 9.1 percent from 9 percent the month before.

The market's muted reaction to the strong jobs numbers comes after the market rose more than 1.5 percent on Thursdayafter a robust report on jobless claims, and as oil prices slid.

"Our inclination heading into today’s report was to believe that much of yesterday’s equity rally was 'jobs induced' rather than oil related," Dan Greenhaus, chief economist strategist at Miller Tabak & Co. said in a note to clients Friday. "As such, our gut feeling was that a number closer to 250K would have been necessary to sustain the rally, at least initially."

But Greenhaus added, "we must note that this is, relatively speaking, a pretty decent jobs report."

The market also may be skittish as the price of oil is rising again amid continuing tensions in Libya, which also may be pressuring stocks.

London Brent crude futures rose to more than $115 a barrel as fighting in Libya intensified and on protests in Saudi Arabia's oil-producing Eastern Province, while U.S. light, sweet crude was back over $102.

In other economic news, January factory orders will be released at 10 a.m. and are expected to rise 2.1 percent, according to a Briefing.com poll.

Elsewhere in economic news, Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen speaks at a central banking conference in Paris Friday morning.

Investors will also focus oncurrencies, a day after the euro soared after European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet hinted that an interest-rate hike could come as early April. Meanwhile, the dollar traded flat against a basket of currencies.

Among financials, Bank of America Merrill Lynch downgraded Citigroup and Goldman Sachs to "neutral" from "buy," saying it expects first-quarter results for both banks to be tepid. Both stocks slipped in pre-market trading.

Boeing is among stocks to watch Friday after Reuters cited sources as saying European rival EADS was set to concede defeat in a decade-long battle with the group by deciding not to appeal a $30 billion US tanker contract.

Chrysler is also in focus on a source-based report by Reuters that the group is in advanced talks with banks on refinancing about $7 billion in government debt and establishing a credit facility to help clear the way for an initial public offering this year.

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