Stock Futures Cautious on Jobs Report as Comcast Rises

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were little changed after an ADP jobs report pointed to a slowdown in economic conditions, and as investors anticipated that Federal Reserve policymakers will not be backing down from accommodative measures any time soon.

Ahead of Friday's widely-watched U.S. government nonfarm payrolls report, payroll processor ADP reported that the private sector added 119,000 jobs in April vs. a downwardly-revised 131,000 in March. The number was below the consensus estimate of 150,000, according to Thomson Reuters .

"ADP isn't a perfect predictor by any means but we see no reason to believe that substantial job growth above and beyond what we've seen of late should be expected," Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at the broker-dealer BTIG LLC in New York, said in a note.

Futures for the S&P 500 were up 0.25 points, or 0.08 points above fair value, to 1,592.5 after the index snagged an all-time closing high Tuesday.

One of the biggest highlights of the day on the economic front will be the Federal Open Market Committee rates announcement at 2 p.m. EDT.

Michael Hanson, a senior U.S. economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York, and a former Fed staffer, anticipates the statement will emphasize that the Fed has the flexibility to either raise or lower its purchase pace, as Chairman Ben Bernanke "went out of his way" to note at the post-FOMC press conference in March.

He also expects the statement to acknowledge that inflation is running well below the Fed's comfort level and will look for an active debate over the causes of the recent disinflationary pressures and the appropriate policy response.

"With several members already suggesting the Fed should defend their inflation target 'from below,' look for a significant pivot away from stopping accommodation to now inching towards going for more if the data - particularly on inflation - continue to disappoint," Hanson said in a note. He does not expect the FOMC to start tapering asset purchases until after its March 2014 meeting, with buying finally concluding early in the fourth quarter.

The statement won't be followed by a Bernanke press conference.

NBCUniversal parent Comcast was rising 2.08% to $42.16 after reporting first-quarter earnings of 51 cents a share, beating estimates by a penny, and revenue that was a touch below expectations as a double-digit decline in broadcast sales was offset by strength in cable and theme parks.

Merck was tumbling 4.09% to $45.08 after posting first-quarter revenue below estimates, as results took a hit from a stronger dollar that hurt sales abroad and generic competition for its Singulair asthma drug.

Time Warner was sliding 2.31% to $58.40 on disappointing first-quarter sales, which were hurt by weakness in its film, TV entertainment, and publishing units.