The employment report, an economic indicator closely watched by interest-rate speculators, will determine the market's mood Friday. IPOs and a report on factory orders may also have some say in the matter. Asian and European markets were mixed, and the Dow is set to open slightly higher.
Friday's jobs data are expected to show 235,000 new jobs were created in February, compared with the 387,000 in January. The unemployment rate is expected to be 4.0 percent, the same rate as in January. Hourly earnings are also predicted to have increased 0.3 percent, compared to a 0.4 percent hike in January.
Factory orders are expected to have fallen 0.6 percent, compared with the 3.3 percent gain in December.
A strong batch of IPOs is on deck; E-campaign management software firm, Prime Response (Nasdaq: PRME), priced above its revised range of $13 to $15, at $18 a share. Register.com (Nasdaq: RCOM), Versata (Nasdaq: VATA) and AsiaInfo (Nasdaq: ASIA) all priced shares at $24 each. UTStarcom (Nasdaq: UTSI), another Asia play, which provides of wireless and wireline telecom equipment in China, priced at $18 a share.
On the earnings front, Healtheon/WebMD Corp (Nasdaq: HLTH) reported before the bell that revenue in 1999 more than doubled from the year before, but fourth quarter net loss widened.
Aside from the day's IPOs, these technology stocks to be among Friday's most active: Ariba, Fairchild Semiconductor, Global Crossing, Vishay Intertechnology and Wind River.
Despite the drama of Palm's much-anticipated initial public offering, technology stocks struggled for a change Thursday. The Nasdaq composite fell 30 points to 4,754.43 while the Dow added 27 points to finish at 10,164.92.
At the Bell
The Dow Jones industrial average may open about 12 points higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index for June futures contracts was up 1.7 points to 1386 at 7:31 a.m. EST in 24-hour electronic trading.
The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index was down 12 to 629.21.
Trading in Asia was mixed. The Nikkei 225 slumped 0.69 percent to 19,927, Singapore's Strait Times index gained 0.33 percent to 2,117 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 2.06 percent to 17,285.
European markets were also moving in different directions. London's FTSE 100 rose 0.27 percent to 6,449. The CAC 40 in Paris lost 0.08 percent to 6,472 and the Xetra DAX in Frankfurt was down 0.28 percent to 7,923 at 7:11 a.m. EST.
Reuters contributed to this report.