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U.S. Stock-Index Futures Gain as Data Show Employment Growth

Jan. 4 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stock futures advanced after government data showed employers added workers in December at about the same pace as the prior month and the unemployment rate matched a four-year low.

Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures expiring in March added 0.2 percent to 1,456.5 at 8:33 a.m. in New York.

Payrolls rose by 155,000 workers last month following a revised 161,000 advance in November that was more than initially estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median estimate of 82 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a increase of 152,000. The unemployment rate held at 7.8 percent, matching the lowest since December 2008.

The S&P 500 has risen 4.1 percent this week, its largest advance in more than a year. The gauge soared 2.5 percent on Jan. 2 after Republicans and Democrats agreed on a compromise budget that avoided the so-called fiscal cliff of sweeping tax increases and spending cuts.

The equity benchmark surged 13 percent in 2012, its biggest annual rally in three years, as the Federal Reserve expanded asset purchases and the European Central Bank announced an unlimited bond-buying plan.

A release from the Institute for Supply Management at 10 a.m. will show its services index, which covers almost 90 percent of the economy, eased to 54 in December from 54.7 in November, according to the median estimate. A reading above 50 means that activity increased.

RBC Dominion Securities Inc. raised its stance on U.S. equities in a report today, recommending that investors hold more of the securities than are represented in benchmarks.

“Regardless of what one might think about Washington’s last-minute fiscal deal, it seems to have removed a layer of uncertainty and this is positive for share prices,” analysts led by Myles Zyblock wrote in the note.

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