By Angela Moon
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street was set for a higher open on Friday after a jobs report suggested the economy still needs the Federal Reserve's support, which quelled fears that the Fed may end its stimulus efforts sooner than expected.
The Labor Department said 175,000 jobs were added in May, just above the median forecast of economists in a Reuters poll, while the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 7.6 percent, with the increase giving a relatively hopeful sign as it was driven by more workers entering the labor force.
The report showed moderate growth but not enough forward momentum to suggest that the Fed will put the brakes on its bond-buying program in the near future.
"The Fed was getting almost exactly what they hoped for in this number, which is solid employment growth, nothing over the top but certainly nothing disappointing here either," said Darrell Cronk, regional chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank in New York.
"It fell right in this middle ground where the markets can become full with it."
The S&P 500 is up about 13 percent so far this year, after repeatedly hitting record highs. Those gains were triggered in part by the belief the Fed's stimulus would remain in place.
But trading volatility has picked up significantly over the past couple of weeks, reflecting investors' concerns over the longevity of the Fed's stimulus program and over a still-sluggish global economy.
On Friday, Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, said on CNBC that a gradual withdrawal of economic stimulus was "adequate, but we have to get moving."
S&P 500 futures rose 5.8 points and were slightly above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 62 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 14.75 points.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc said Thursday it is optimistic that sales at its U.S. stores will recover from recent sluggishness to grow in the second half of the year, in part because shoppers are getting more confident.
Apple shares may be in the spotlight after rival Samsung Electronics Co lost $12 billion in market value Friday, amid concern over slowing sales of its flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone. Apple shares were flat in premarket trade.
George Soros's firm, Soros Fund Management, which manages $24 billion of the investor's cash, sold much of its Japanese stock position in May, before the recent, steep sell-off, according to a person close to the matter.
U.S. stocks rose on Thursday, with the Dow swinging nearly 200 points between the session low and high, and the S&P 500 recovering after hitting a key technical level in volatile trading a day before the release of the U.S. jobs report.
(Additional reporting by Chuck Miklojczak; Editing by Bernadette Baum)