U.S. stocks were poised to head lower Wednesday, as investors mulled over signs of an improving job market.
Economy: Before the opening bell, private sector payrolls soared by 297,000 in December, according to a report from payroll processor ADP. Economists were expecting the report to show that payrolls increase by 100,000 last month, compared to November's 93,000 rise.
The report could set the tone ahead of the Friday's monthly jobs report. Economists expect employers boosted payrolls by 135,000 last month, following a 39,000 increase in November.
After the opening bell Wednesday, a report from the Institute of Supply Management is forecast to show that activity picked up in the service sector last month. Economists expect the ISM Non-manufacturing Index to register at 55.7, compared to November's 55.0 reading.
Companies: Wireless tech giant Qualcomm (QCOM, Fortune 500) agreed to buy chip maker Atheros Communications (ATHR) for $3.1 billion in cash, or $45 per share, a 22% premium over Atheros' closing price on Monday. Shares of Atheros rose 1.8% in premarket trading, while Qualcomm's stock edged up 0.6%.
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