Stock futures pointed to a soft start on Wall Street later on Friday ahead of key consumer inflation data that could shape the market's expectations for interest rates.

By 0530 EST, March Dow Jones futures were down 0.2 percent, while Standard & Poor's 500 futures were down 0.3 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures were down 0.1 percent.

With no major companies scheduled to report earnings on Friday, investors will take a close look at the consumer price index (CPI) for November for how much record-high gasoline and other commodity prices may hit the general public's pockets.

Data on Thursday showed producer prices staged their largest monthly rise in 34 years in November and a similar pick-up in consumer inflation will temper existing expectations in the market for how much the Federal Reserve will cut U.S. rates in the months ahead.

The CPI readings will likely dominate and any replication of the inflationary pressures seen in the wholesale data yesterday could present some significant selling opportunities, whilst at a stock specific level it's likely to be United Technologies and Novell - both of whom who reported after the bell last night - that will attract more than the usual degree of attention, said Claire Collingwood, a trader at CMC Markets.

The CPI data is due at 0830 EST.

The core index -- which strips out food and energy prices -- is expected to have risen by 0.2 percent for the sixth month in a row and to have risen by 2.3 percent year-on-year in November, from October's 2.2 percent yearly increase.

On Thursday, diversified manufacturer Honeywell was one of the leading gainers on the New York Stock Exchange after increasing its 2008 profit forecast on strength in its aerospace business and in emerging markets.

Aside from the producer price data, which initially knocked U.S. stock futures before the bell, retail sales data for November came in above expectations, which should have soothed any concern about the resilience of consumer spending, but much of the rise was the result of high gasoline prices.

The Dow .DJI was up 44.06 points, or 0.33 percent, at 13,517.96. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX was up 1.82 points, or 0.12 percent, at 1,488.42. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was down 2.65 points, or 0.10 percent, at 2,668.49.

United Technologies, the world's largest manufacturer of elevators and air conditioners, said it expected 2008 earnings to grow by 10 to 14 percent as global growth expanded and reaffirmed its profit forecast for this year.

In Europe, UTX shares were up 1.1 percent on Friday from their last close in Frankfurt at 53.25 euros.

Novell shares meanwhile fell nearly 7 percent from their last European close after the second-largest publicly held maker of Linux software reported a quarterly loss after the bell on Thursday.

Shares in Novell fell by nearly 5 percent in after-hours electronic trading in New York.

(Editing by Erica Billingham)