Stocks were set to slip at the open on Monday, weighed by persistent concerns over a possible monetary tightening in China that could slow the global recovery from recession.
But data gave some support to equities even as a gauge of manufacturing in New York state slipped in March, as the decline was slightly lower than expected. The employment component of the New York Fed manufacturing index rose to its highest since October 2007.
A separate report showed U.S. industrial output edged up 0.1 percent in February, likely restrained by severe winter storms that hit parts of the country, the Federal Reserve said.
The fact that we had a slight upside surprise (in the manufacturing data) makes this look even better when viewed through the lens of a weather adjustment, said Craig Peckham, equity trading strategist at Jefferies & Co in New York.
S&P 500 futures fell 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 dropped 23 points and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 5.75 points.
Shanghai's key stock index fell 1.2 percent to its lowest close in five weeks on Monday as investors expect China's central bank to step up monetary tightening measures in the wake of higher-than-expected inflation data released last week.
In the United States, bank shares will be in the spotlight as Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd said he will unveil a revised financial regulation proposal on Monday.
Euro zone finance ministers were likely to agree on principles for financial help for Greece on Monday, an EU source said.
But analysts said an aid package for Greece would not be enough to ease overall sovereign debt concerns within the euro zone. That helped the U.S. dollar rise, as did the fall in Chinese stocks.
Also weighing on the market was caution ahead of the Tuesday start of a monetary policy meeting of the Federal Reserve, which is expected to hold interest rates near zero and reiterate the need for an extended period of exceptionally low rates.
(Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)