Stock index futures dipped on Friday as investors feared government payrolls data for February may show the recession is deepening and extend Wall Street's recent fall to 12-year lows.
Heightened concerns about the U.S. nonfarm jobs report contributed to a drop in stock markets in Europe and Asia.
Even so, a search for beaten-down shares and a rise in energy prices was likely to cushion the market, with U.S. front-month crude up 1.4 percent at $44.24 a barrel.
Economists in a Reuters poll expect that 648,000 jobs were slashed from U.S. payrolls in February, while the unemployment rate is expected to jump to a 25-year high of 7.9 percent.
There is a sense that if the data is that bad, how can it get worse? There is definitely the possibility of a rally on bad news but I wouldn't bank on that, said Cleveland Rueckert, market analyst at Birinyi Associates in Stamford, Connecticut.
S&P 500 futures fell 4.00 points and were about break-even with fair value, a formula to evaluate pricing taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 41 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures dipped 6.25 points.
Investors worry that further bleak news on the labor front could fuel more anxiety among consumers, whose spending is a key driver of corporate profits, and diminish the appetite for risk among investors.
Before the bell, Wells Fargo
U.S. stocks slid on Thursday with the Dow and S&P falling to 12-year lows as General Motors' warning of possible bankruptcy and concerns about the banking system's fate reinforced investors' reluctance to take on risk.
(Additional reporting by Ellis Mnyandu; Editing by James Dalgleish)