Wall Street futures fall ahead of U.S. payrolls

* U.S. stock index futures edged down on Friday, as caution
prevailed ahead of the release of U.S. non-farm payroll figures,
with futures for the S&P 500 (SPc1: ), the Dow Jones (DJc1: ) and
the Nasdaq (NDc1: ) down 0.1 to 0.2 percent by 0942 GMT.

* Economists expect U.S. non-farm payrolls, due at 1330 GMT,
to show 175,000 new jobs created in December, the highest level
since May, though the unemployment rate is seen edging down only
slightly to 9.7 from 9.8 percent. [ID:nN06134458]

* Key jobs data report comes after 8 percent rise in the S&P
500 since the start of December.

* U.S. stocks (Read more about the stock market today. ) slipped on Thursday, pressured by soft retail
sales and a sharp rise in the dollar.

* Ben Bernanke delivers his first congressional testimony
since the Federal Reserve launched a controversial bond-buying
policy, and may put the brakes on some of Wall Street’s optimism
surrounding a recent rebound in key economic data.
[ID:nN06147394]

* U.S. Republicans acknowledged on Thursday they will have
to sign off on more deficit spending to avoid a debt default
that could roil financial markets and bring the government to a
grinding halt. [ID:nN06126921]

* In company news, Sara Lee Corp (SLE.N: ) is considering the
spin-off of its meat and coffee businesses after rejecting a
takeover bid last month from Brazil’s JBS SA (JBSS3.SA: ), a
source familiar with the situation said on Thursday.
[ID:nN06141638]

* The Chinese securities regulator on Friday approved the
local joint ventures of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co (JPM.N: ) and
Morgan Stanley (MS.N: ) (Read more about the money market today. ), bringing the banks a step closer towards
operating securities businesses in China that they, and other
banks, have long sought. [ID:nTOE70601M]

* Citigroup (C.N: ) is seeking buyers for CitiFinancial, the
largest consumer finance company in the United States, in a deal
that could raise hundreds of millions of dollars, the Financial
Times said. [ID:nN06162449]

* The Pentagon has overhauled the Lockheed Martin Corp
(LMT.N: ) F-35 fighter project for the second time in a year and
said it would buy 41 Boeing Co (BA.N: ) F/A-18 combat planes over
the next three years to offset slower production of the Lockheed
plane. [ID:nN06148346]

* The United States plans to cut $78 billion in defense
spending over five years, including a reduction of up to 47,000
troops, in a politically contentious move that would trim the
government’s growing budget deficit. [ID:nN06126742]

* Three dry wells drilled by Murphy Oil Corp (MUR.N: ) off the
Republic of the Congo will cost it $36 million in the fourth
quarter, the U.S. oil company said on Thursday. [ID:nN06152407]

* The board of bailed-out insurer American International
Group (AIG.N: ) approved a dividend for shareholders on Thursday
that assumes its recapitalization plan will close as soon as
next week. [ID:nN06150266]

* In Europe, the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 (.FTEU3: )
index of top shares was down 0.3 percent in early trade, with
investors cautious ahead of the widely-watched U.S. payrolls
data.
(Reporting by Harpreet Bhal; Editing by Greg Mahlich)