US STOCKS-Futures drop ahead of payrolls report

Last Updated: Fri, Apr 05, 2013 11:30 hrs

* S&P 500 on track for biggest weekly decline of 2013

* Jobs report on tap, weak payrolls could spark decline

* F5 Networks plunges in premarket after weak outlook

* Futures down: Dow 73 pts, S&P 8.3 pts, Nasdaq 17 pts

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, April 5 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were lower on Friday as investors looked to the release of nonfarm payrolls data, which could be the latest in a series of reports pointing to slowing growth.

* Analysts expect 200,000 jobs to have been added in March, down from 236,000 added in February. The unemployment rate is expected to remain at 7.7 percent.

* Equities have struggled for direction since the S&P 500 reached an all-time closing high earlier this week, and a disappointing report may trigger a more protracted sell-off. The S&P is down 0.6 percent so far this week, on track to be its worst week of 2013.

* Earlier this week, private sector employment and jobless claims data indicated weakness in the labor market. Reports on the manufacturing and services sectors also disappointed.

* Investors will likely be looking for the payrolls report to meet expectations. Stronger numbers than expected could raise concerns that the Federal Reserve may slow its economic stimulus programs sooner than anticipated.

* Central bank actions around the world have boosted equities thus far this year, and lifted the S&P about 9.4 percent. On Thursday, Wall Street rose after the Bank of Japan announced aggressive policies to jump-start its economy.

* S&P 500 futures fell 8.3 points and were below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures sank 73 points and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 17 points.

* If the S&P closes down on the week, it will be only the third weekly loss this year for the benchmark index, which has struggled to surpass an intraday record high of 1,576.09.

* Energy shares have been among the most pressured recently, dropping alongside crude oil, which is down 4.6 percent this week. Tied to growth expectations, the group could continue to struggle if the payroll report disappoints. Chevron Corp has lost 2.6 percent over the past two weeks.

* Earnings forecasts have declined heading into first-quarter reports, due to be kicked off next week by Alcoa . S&P 500 earnings are expected to have risen just 1.6 percent from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data, down from 4.3 percent forecast in January.

* Late Thursday, F5 Networks Inc forecast second-quarter earnings and revenue that were well below expectations. Its shares slumped 17 percent to $75.20 in premarket trading.

* Geopolitical tensions will remain in focus after North Korea placed two of its intermediate range missiles on mobile launchers and hid them on the east coast of the country, South Korean media reported on Friday.

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