Futures flat as investors await jobs data

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[January 06, 2017]  By Yashaswini Swamynathan

(Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Friday as investors remained cautious ahead of a crucial monthly jobs report that would provide clues on the pace of interest rate hikes this year.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., January 5, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson - RTX2XNOW

Hiring in the U.S. public and private sector is expected to have remained flat at 178,000 in December, a report from the Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. ET (1330 GMT) is likely to show.

Federal Reserve policymakers had agreed that President-elect Donald Trump's fiscal stimulus measures could prompt a faster rate of interest rate hikes than previously anticipated, according to the minutes of its December meeting released on Wednesday.

Chicago Fed President Charles Evans and his Dallas counterpart Robert Kaplan are scheduled to speak at separate events on Friday and could provide their take the outlook for interest rate hikes.

Traders see a more than 70 percent chance of at least three rate hikes this year, according to Thomson Reuters data. Strong nonfarm payrolls data could increase those bets.

Even with a brightening economic outlook, investors are now looking for further evidence to buy into a market that some analysts say could be poised for a correction.

The S&P 500 is trading at 17.5 times forward 12-month earnings, well above the 10-year median of 14.7 times, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Still, the Nasdaq Composite index <.IXIC> managed to close at a record high driven by gains in Amazon.com <AMZN.O>. The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average marked their first down day for the year.

Amgen's <AMGN.O> shares rose 4.6 percent premarket after a U.S. district judge blocked Sanofi <SASY.PA> and Regeneron <REGN.O> from selling their cholesterol drug, which Amgen said infringed its patents. Regeneron dropped 7.1 percent to $353.

Gap <GPS.N> rose 8.6 percent to $25.25 after the apparel retailer posted a surprise rise in December comparable store sales and said it expected 2016 profit to be above the higher end of forecast.

(Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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