Stock index futures pointed to a lower open on Thursday after an unexpected drop in U.S. retail sales last month pointed to an uneven economic recovery.

Retail sales fell 0.3 percent in December, the first decline in three months, a surprising drop during the holiday shopping season that raised doubts about the strength of consumer spending. Sales rose an upwardly adjusted 1.8 percent in November, the U.S. Commerce Department said.

The number of U.S. workers filing for jobless claims climbed more than expected last week, but a measure of underlying trends moved steadily lower in a sign that labor markets are slowly improving.

It (retail sales data) just shows that this economic recovery ... is going to be choppy. It is not going to be a straight shot to the moon, said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors in New York.

S&P 500 futures fell 2.2 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 lost 19 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures shed 5.5 points.

Intel Corp kicks off the start of technology-sector earnings after the bell, with some analysts concerned the shares may sell off if its 2010 outlook isn't rosy enough.

The chipmaker is expected to report earnings of 30 cents per share, excluding items, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Intel results this evening will be when we really begin to focus on earnings and get a handle of how the rest of the season will shape up, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners in New York.

Intel shares rose 0.9 percent at $21.15 in premarket trading.

Financial shares will be in focus as U.S. President Barack Obama is due to propose that major U.S. financial companies pay a fee to protect taxpayers from up to $117 billion in losses on the banks bailout that has spurred public fury. The announcement is set for 11:50 a.m. EST.

Google Inc may be active as China showed no sign of giving ground on Google's censorship claim as the U.S. Internet giant threatened to quit the country.

(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)