Stock index futures pointed to a flat to slightly lower open on Wall Street on Thursday, with S&P 500 futures down 0.14 percent, Dow Jones futures down 0.10 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures up 0.01 percent at 0925 GMT.
Nervous investors kept the euro currency and European stocks within narrow ranges on Thursday morning with the markets focused on any signal from the European Central Bank's rate meeting about a policy easing and a Spanish bond sale that will test demand for Europe's debt.
The ECB was seen taking a breather this month after cutting interest rates, pausing to assess the impact of a series of measures it took in late 2011. In a Reuters poll, 56 out of 66 economists expected rates to remain at the current level, with investor focus on a news conference with ECB President Mario Draghi, starting at 1330 GMT.
Greece may need more funds from European partners bailing out the country if not enough private creditors sign up for a voluntary swap of bonds to cut the country's debt burden, its deputy finance minister said on Thursday.
China's inflation rate eased to a 15-month low in December, though food prices are a reminder of the risks the government is weighing as it tilts policy towards boosting growth as internal and external demand for Chinese goods falters.
Car sales in China climbed 5.2 percent in 2011, the slowest pace since the nation's car culture took off at the turn of the century, as consumers shunned local brands after Beijing scrapped tax incentives for small cars.
China's economy is being weighed down by slowing growth in the United States and the European Union, but the possibility of a hard landing should be ruled out, said David Lipton, first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
Royal Bank of Scotland
Big 5 Sporting Goods Corp
Raymond James Financial Inc
Morgan Stanley has cut 10 fixed-income jobs, mainly in sales and trading, in Singapore and Hong Kong, as competition from Asian banks heats up in that asset class and traditional markets shrink.
On the macro front, investors awaited weekly jobless claims and December retail sales as well as business inventories for November.
U.S. stocks held firm near recent five-month highs on Wednesday as investors awaited key bond market tests for Europe in the next two days that could determine the direction of the euro zone crisis.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> slipped 13.02 points, or 0.10 percent, to 12,449.45. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX><.INX> gained 0.40 points, or 0.03 percent, to 1,292.48. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> gained 8.26 points, or 0.31 percent, to 2,710.76.
(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)