Major U.S. stock indexes pointed to a drop of about 2 percent at the open on Friday as a possible debt default at a Dubai state-owned conglomerate sparked fears of renewed global financial turmoil.
Stocks fell broadly in premarket trading on concerns over Dubai, with financial stocks especially hard hit. Dow components Bank of America Corp
On Wednesday, Dubai said it would ask creditors of state-owned Dubai World, with $59 billion in debt, and builder Nakheel for a standstill agreement on the debt as a first step toward restructuring.
This speaks to the potential for further widespread concern and damage from the credit crisis, said Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Equity Markets in Jersey City, New Jersey.
What no one wants to consider is whether this is contagious. If it happens in Dubai, who isn't susceptible? This has the potential to have an impact on the psychology of the market for the rest of the year.
The U.S. dollar, considered a safe haven for investors, rose 0.7 percent against a basket of currencies while January crude futures dropped 5.2 percent. Dow component Exxon Mobil Corp
S&P 500 futures sank 28.1 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 tumbled 211 points, while Nasdaq 100 futures slid 40 points.
Investors will closely be watching the results of Black Friday, the unofficial start of the crucial holiday shopping period. Many retailers are offering steep discounts in order to lure in customers with bargains.
Consumer spending accounting for about 70 percent of the U.S. economy, and the strength of Friday's sales could suggest how willing consumers are to spend in the season.
Knight Equity's Kenny said he expects a lot of merchandise will be moved and volume will be good this year, but the discounting means there will be significant margin compression. It's impossible to avoid that.
Trading volume will likely be low in Friday's shortened session. No companies are scheduled to report quarterly results and no major economic data is on tap.
In Wednesday's session, stocks rose in light volume as data pointed to stabilization in the labor and housing markets, areas that have fed concerns about a double dip recession.