U.S. stock index futures fell on Friday after a massive earthquake hit Japan and accelerating inflation in China rattled investors.
The biggest earthquake on record to struck Japan on Friday, triggering a roughly 30-foot tsunami that swept away everything in its path, including houses, ships and cars.
Chinese inflation topped expectations in February at 4.9 percent and looked set to climb further in coming months, adding to pressure for another dose of monetary tightening.
Japanese stock futures fell 2.4 percent after the earthquake, but market players said the slide may not be too deep because major cities and manufacturing facilities were not affected. <.T>
Had yesterday been a decent day, today would've been the sell-off. Something tells me this is not going to be a big event for our market, said Jamie Cox, managing partner of Harris Financial Group in Colonial Heights, Virginia.
I'm not sure that the equities markets are the ones that are going to be on ball bearings today, he added. It is going to be all the commodities markets. Those markets are going to be the ones you have to watch and that is actually good for equities.
Brent crude futures fell 2 percent to near $113, and U.S. crude dropped 2.5 percent to about $100 as the earthquake shut down dozens of plants in the world's third-largest oil consumer.
S&P 500 futures lost 2.5 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 fell 35 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures dropped 6.25 points.
Investors watched the Middle East and North Africa ahead of a planned day of demonstrations in Saudi Arabia that will test whether online calls for protests move to the streets.
Insurer Aflac Inc
On the economic front, investors will monitor U.S. retail sales data at 8:30 a.m. EST <1330 GMT>.
European shares hit a three-month low, falling 0.6 percent with sentiment worsening after Japan's earthquake and on growing unrest in the Arab world, but analysts expect equities to bounce back. <.EU>
Asian shares dipped as weak economic data and spreading Middle East unrest prompted profit-taking.
Fears about the economy and unrest in Saudi Arabia darkened the outlook for equities on Thursday, pushing major indexes below key technical levels.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)