Stock index futures dipped on Thursday along with global markets, as investors awaited data expected to show a rise in initial jobless claims, one day before the closely watched monthly non-farm payrolls report.
The Labor Department will release weekly first-time claims numbers for jobless benefits at 8:30 a.m. EST. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast 447,000 new filings, compared with 432,000 in the prior week.
On Friday, the government will release the monthly non-farm payrolls employment.
We are seeing a very cautious mood going into the labor report tomorrow and the interest rates decision next week ... Today will likely be a repeat of the past couple of days, which is that the market continues to struggle and consolidate some of the strong moves we saw on the first day of the year, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners in New York.
S&P 500 futures lost 2.9 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 fell 29 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures dropped 4.25 points.
U.S. retailers including Sears Holdings Corp and Costco Wholesale Corp posted higher sales for December as cautious consumers did their holiday shopping with an eye for bargains.
Limited Brands Inc rose 4.9 percent to $20 premarket after reporting December sales results and raising its fourth-quarter earnings outlook.
Bed Bath & Beyond Inc gained 8.4 percent at $42.52 premarket, a day after posting higher-than-expected quarterly profit.
The International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs will released monthly data later Thursday. In the previous month, sales fell 0.3 percent from a year ago.
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said Thursday the U.S. labor market is improving and the economy is close to the point where unemployment will start to fall.
February crude oil futures fell 1 percent to $82.37 a barrel as signs of tighter monetary policy in China sparked concerns about demand, while the U.S. dollar <.DXY> gained 0.7 percent against a basket of major currencies.
European stocks were down 0.5 percent Thursday in their first broad retreat this year, while Japan's Nikkei average <.N225> closed down 0.5 percent. China's key stock <.SSEC> index fell nearly 2 percent.
A former senior executive at Citigroup Inc has decided to take legal action to force the company to resume paying his multimillion dollar severance package that has been frozen for six months, the Financial Times reported.
For non-farm payrolls on Friday, economists look for a loss of 8,000 non-farm jobs after a surprisingly small total of 11,000 job losses in November. The unemployment rate is seen at 10.1 percent versus 10 percent in November.
(Reporting by Angela Moon; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)