Stock index futures fell on Monday as political brinkmanship in Washington over the debt ceiling sparked fears of a U.S. rating downgrade, sending world equities lower and pushing gold to a record high.
A divided U.S. Congress pursued rival budget plans that appeared unlikely to win broad support, pushing the country closer to a debt default.
While analysts still expected a deal to raise the debt ceiling by August 2, the United States moved one step closer to losing its coveted triple-A credit rating as Democrats and Republicans seemed unlikely to agree on a deal.
White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley warned there would be a few stressful days ahead for financial markets. But Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was confident a deal would be reached.
The political wrangling has weighed on equity markets, but that has been offset by positive earnings news. Major indexes notched solid gains last week, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq rising more than 2 percent.
The main fear is the possible downgrade. I'm certain that the politicians won't let this happen, but still the market has fears, said Larry Peruzzi, senior equity trader at Cabrera Capital Markets Inc in Boston.
S&P 500 futures fell 10.1 points and were below 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 slid 85 points and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 14 points.
European shares dipped in early trade, threatening a one-week rally, as banking stocks dropped. U.S.-listed shares of Barclays
Gold surged to a record high above $1,620 an ounce in Asian trading, the fifth record high for bullion in less than two weeks.
Also rattling investors, credit rating agency Moody's cut Greece's sovereign debt by three notches on Monday to 'Ca', just one level above default. Greece has the lowest rating of any country in the world covered by Moody's.
Investors also awaited earnings from Texas Instruments Inc
On Friday, promising chipmaker earnings and optimism about a debt deal triggered a move into growth-oriented shares such as techs.
(Reporting by Angela Moon; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)