Stocks Head for Flat Open

U.S. stocks headed for a flat open Monday ahead of speeches from Federal Reserve officials that Wall Street hopes will offer insight into the central bank's plans after a weaker-than-expected U.S. employment report Friday.

Dow futures fell 7, or 0.05 percent, to 13,159. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures fell 1.00, or 0.07 percent, to 1,458.80, and Nasdaq 100 index futures rose 0.75, or 0.04 percent, to 1,971.25.

Bonds slipped Monday as stock futures steadied. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, rose to 4.38 percent from 4.37 percent late Friday.

The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices, which have risen sharply in recent weeks amid concerns about the strength of the U.S. dollar, rose. A rate cut by the Fed could hurt dollar-denominated assets, prompting some investors to shift into gold.

Light, sweet crude fell 53 cents to $76.17 per barrel in premarket electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Wall Street appeared to be steadying itself after a sell-off on the jobs report that sent the Dow Jones industrials down 250 points. While some traders had hoped for weakness in the report to help the Federal Reserve justify cutting interest rates when it meets next week, the market was stunned by a loss in jobs when a gain had been expected.

With little economic data due Monday, Wall Street will likely pay close attention to comments from several Fed officials expected to speak. Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher and Fed Governor Frederic Mishkin are slated to speak in various events. Traders will be keen to learn their perspectives on the health of the economy and for any hints as to what the central bank might do when it meets Sept. 18.

Over the weekend, Philadelphia Fed Chief Charles Plosser said in reference to Friday's payroll number that the Fed's Open Market Committee doesn't make rate decisions based on any one number, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

For many investors, a rate cut after more than a year of the Fed standing pat on rates is inevitable. The debate, as they see it, is whether the Fed will reduce rates by a quarter percentage point or a half percentage point.

The modest movement in stock futures follows a week in which the major indexes all lost more than 1 percent thanks to Friday's retrenchment. The Labor Department's report that August payrolls fell, marking the first monthly decline in four years, further depressed a market already uneasy about a lackluster housing market, tightening availability of credit and a rise in mortgage defaults. The drop in payrolls stirred concerns of a recession.

With consumer spending accounting for about two-thirds of economic activity, Wall Street is concerned about any drop in employment that would make consumers hesitant to spend.

Wall Street expects the Fed's consumer credit report, due Monday, will show Americans tacked on debt at a slower pace in July than the prior month as gas prices rose and as the housing market showed continued strain. A consensus estimate of Wall Street economists surveyed by Thomson/IFR puts an increase in consumer borrowing at $7 billion in July.

The increase in June totaled $13.2 billion -- an annual rate of 6.5 percent -- and was double what Wall Street had been expecting. The monthly readings don't include mortgage debt and other loans backed by real estate.

In corporate news, Countrywide Financial Corp. {CFC} said after the closing bell Friday it would cut as many as 12,000 jobs -- up to 20 percent of it work force -- as the mortgage lender tries to ride out upheaval in the mortgage industry. The company expects new mortgages to fall 25 percent next year.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average closed down 2.22 percent Monday following weakness in the dollar and the U.S. jobs report Friday. In afternoon trading, Britain's FTSE 100 slipped 0.16 percent, Germany's DAX index fell 0.12 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 0.25 percent.