* US private sector adds 215,000 jobs in Dec -ADP
* U.S. jobless claims rise in holiday-distorted week
* Fed to release minutes from FOMC Dec meeting
* Futures dip: S&P 2.3 pts, Dow 20 pts, Nasdaq 1 pt
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Wall Street was set for a
slightly lower open on Thursday, as investors lock in gains
after a rally Wednesday, which was spurred by a deal by U.S.
lawmakers to avert a "fiscal cliff" of austerity measures that
had been due to kick in this year.
Earlier losses in U.S. stock index futures Thursday were
capped by better-than-expected data that showed U.S.
private-sector employers added 215,000 jobs in December. That
was well above economists' expectations for a gain of 133,000
jobs, according to a Reuters survey.
"The underlying economy has momentum, and the employment
data confirms that. The political issues in Washington counter
the momentum we're seeing in the economy, but you might see
still equities grind higher today on this," said John Brady,
managing director at R.J. O'Brien & Associates in Chicago.
A separate report showed the number of Americans filing new
claims for unemployment benefits rose last week, but the data
was too distorted by year-end holidays to offer a clear read of
labor market conditions.
S&P 500 futures fell 2.3 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 lost 20
points, while Nasdaq 100 futures dipped 1.00 point.
Wall Street began the new year Wednesday with a rally and
their best performance in more than a year, sparked by a
last-minute deal in Washington to avert a fiscal cliff of
automatic massive tax hikes and spending cuts that, in the
worst-case scenario, would have hurt the nation's economic
The minutes of the Federal Reserve's policy meeting last
month will be released at 2:00 p.m. EST (1900 GMT). The minutes
will give details on the discussions of the Federal Open Market
Committee's Dec. 11-12 meeting.
U.S. retailer Costco Wholesale Corp reported a
better-than-expected 9 percent rise in December sales at stores
open at least a year, mainly helped by an additional sales day
in the reporting period. Costco shares were flat
in premarket trading.
Gap Inc will buy women's fashion boutique Intermix
Inc for $130 million to enter the luxury clothes market, the
Wall Street Journal reported. The stock surged 4.9 percent to
$32.90 in premarket trading.
Family Dollar Stores Inc reported a
lower-than-expected quarterly profit as its emphasis on selling
more everyday items like cigarettes and soft drinks put pressure
on margins. The stock fell 8 percent to $58.89
in premarket trading.
Growth in China's increasingly important services sector
accelerated in December at its fastest pace in four months,
adding to signs of a modest year-end revival in the world's