* Payrolls report expected to show improved jobs growth
* S&P may be vulnerable after strong January gains
* Exxon and Chevron on tap to report results
* Futures up: Dow 63 pts, S&P 4.4 pts, Nasdaq 6.5 pts
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Feb 1 U.S. stock index futures were
higher on Friday as investors looked ahead to a labor market
report expected to show jobs growth picked up in January.
* The non-farm payrolls report is expected to indicate that
160,000 jobs added in January, compared with 155,000 in the
previous month, a sign that the recovery remains intact despite
an unexpected contraction in fourth-quarter gross domestic
product. The report is due at 8:30 a.m. EST (1330 GMT)
* While Thursday's jobless claims report was weaker than
forecast, many recent indicators, including the ADP employment
report and personal income data, have pointed to stronger
* The market could be vulnerable to a pullback if the report
comes in weaker than estimated, with the S&P 500 coming off its
best monthly performance since October 2011. However, investors
have been buying on dips over the past four weeks. The largest
daily decline in the S&P 500 so far this year was Wednesday's
0.39 percent drop, which came after the GDP data.
* S&P 500 futures rose 4.4 points and were above 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 added 63
points, and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 6.5 points.
* The index advanced 5.1 percent in January, with gains
driven by a strong start to the earnings season and a compromise
in Washington that postponed the impact of the "fiscal cliff."
So far this week, the Dow is down 0.3 percent, the S&P is off
0.3 percent, and the Nasdaq has dipped 0.2 percent.
* Merck & Co Inc reported quarterly results early
* While the payroll report will likely be the primary
market driver, corporate earnings will stay in focus. Exxon
Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp, both Dow
components, are on tap to report on Friday.
* Of the 231 companies in the S&P 500 reporting earnings so
far, 69.3 percent have exceeded expectations, according to
Thomson Reuters data through Thursday morning. That is a higher
proportion than over the past four quarters and above average
* Overall, S&P 500 fourth-quarter earnings rose 3.7 percent,
according to the data, above a 1.9 percent forecast at the start
of the earnings season but well below a 9.9 percent profit
growth forecast on Oct. 1.
* Friday will also bring reports on consumer sentiment, U.S.
manufacturing, construction spending and car sales. January
sentiment is seen edging slightly higher in the month while
construction spending rises 0.6 percent in December.
* U.S. stocks closed lower on Thursday as investors became
cautious ahead of the payroll report.