Stock index futures pointed to a lower open on Thursday after consumer bellwether Wal-Mart reported flat quarterly profits and as investors awaited producer price and jobless data for insight into the state of the economy.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc , the world's biggest retailer, reported flat earnings that were in line with analysts' estimates. The chief executive said its overall business was stable, adding that until unemployment eased, it remained cautiously optimistic about a timetable for the economic recovery. The shares ticked down 0.4 percent to $49.85.

Investors awaited producer price and jobless data, both due at 8:30 a.m. EDT, for clues about the direction of the deep recession, a day after worse-than-expected retail sales contributed to a sell-off in stocks.

We would like to see a modicum of inflation, said Arthur Hogan, chief market strategist at Jefferies & Co in New York. By that, we mean we'd like to see positive numbers on both the headline and core number, so anything in positive territory is going to be a winner.

S&P 500 futures fell 1.2 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 shed 43 points, while Nasdaq 100 futures were up 3 points.

In Wednesday's sell-off, the S&P 500 breached key technical support, ending below 900 for the first time in more than a week as stocks retraced strong advances after closing at a 12-year low in early March.

Shares of Whole Foods Market Inc rose 2.6 percent to $20.51 in early electronic trading after the natural and organic supermarket chain posted a quarterly profit that topped estimates late Wednesday.

General Motors and Chrysler are aiming to drop as many as 3,000 U.S. dealers and are expected to begin sending notifications as early as Thursday, three people briefed on the still developing plans told Reuters.

U.S. stocks tumbled Wednesday as a gloomy retail sales report revived anxiety about the economy and led to a broad sell-off that accelerated late in the session.

(Reporting by Edward Krudy; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)