All quiet on the home front Friday as investors wait for the August U.S. employment report, set for release an hour before the opening bell, to gauge whether the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates in mid-month against a backdrop of rising mortgage defaults. Economists say that while a weaker-than-expected reading could heighten concerns about economic growth, a much stronger-than-expected report could effectively wipe out any chance of rate relief when the Fed meets on Sept. 18. The U.S. central bank has left its benchmark federal funds rate unchanged for more than a year in the fight against inflation. But the weight of a faltering housing market, tightening availability of credit and a market sell-off have stirred concerns of a recession. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan speaking to economists in Washington, compared the current market turmoil to that of the stock market crash of 1987 and a big sell-off in 1998. "Having gone through both those periods, it is eerily familiar, I have to agree with him," Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management, told Reuters. With two hours to go before the opening, U.S. stock-index futures are following a weaker tone on markets in Asia and Europe. Dow Jones industrial futures are down 39 points to 13,339, S&P 500 futures down nearly 6 points to 1,473 and Nasdaq 100 futures down almost 12 points to 1,992. Oil prices are steady Friday morning after Thursday's rally that took the price of a barrel of U.S. light crude to $76.30 (U.S.) as renewed tension in the Middle East compounded supply worries after further declines in U.S. fuel inventories. Spot gold traded in London at $695 an ounce, up from $690.40 late Thursday.
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