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Economy Perks Up After 217,000 Jobs Added In February

Wed, 03/02/2011 - 4:00am
David K. Randall, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock futures reversed course and pointed to a higher opening Wednesday after a report said that private companies are adding more jobs than economists had expected.

Payroll-processor ADP said that private-sector employment increased by 217,000 from January to February on a seasonally-adjusted basis, well above the 180,000 new jobs that analysts had predicted. The report suggests that the government's employment report, released Friday, may show that the unemployment rate fell below 9.0 percent.

Stock futures had been pointing lower before the ADP report as oil prices continued to rise. Crude oil prices rose to $100.47 a barrel ahead of the opening of the U.S. stock market.

Oil prices have surged over the last week, pushing the price of gas at the pump up nearly 20 cents a gallon over that time.

Stock indexes fell Tuesday after Chairman Ben Bernanke said that persistent high oil prices could threaten the pace of the economic recovery by increasing transportation costs for businesses and cutting into consumer spending.

Bernanke will testify Wednesday for a second straight day on Capitol Hill, this time to the House Financial Services Committee.

Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 12 points, or 0.1 percent, to 12,034. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures rose 2 points, 0.2 percent, to 1,303. Nasdaq 100 futures rose 3 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,314.

Retail companies reported mixed earnings reports before the market opened.

Staples Inc. said its fourth quarter profit rose 18 percent, slightly below analyst expectations. The company's shares slipped 0.6 percent in pre-market trading. Costco Wholesale Corp. reported a profit that met analyst expectations. The company's stock dipped 0.2 percent in pre-market trading.

BJ Wholesale Club Inc. said its earnings fell 81 percent in the fourth quarter, but met Wall Street's expectations.

Apple Inc. is expected to announce a new version of its iPad tablet computer at an event Wednesday.

Stocks suffered steep losses as oil prices surged on Tuesday, renewing worries that higher fuel prices could hobble the economic recovery. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 168.32 points, or 1.4 percent, to 12,058.02. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 20.89, or 1.6 percent, to 1,306.33. The Nasdaq composite fell 44.86, or 1.6 percent, to 2,737.41.

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