Wall Street was set to open lower on Thursday as falling commodities prices prompted an unwinding of bets on risky assets, including equities, while a sour outlook from Cisco hurt technology stocks.
Index futures and commodity prices pared some losses, however, after U.S. data showed a decline in jobless benefit claims last week and a revision to retail sales data suggested consumer spending in the first quarter might have been stronger than initially thought.
All this data kind of just helps people to reinforce the (idea that the) economy is not falling off a cliff and the recovery is still intact, said John Canally, investment strategist at LPL Financial in Boston.
The wave of profit taking in commodities pulled copper prices to their lowest level since December 1 before bouncing back, while spot silver lost more than 4 percent after tumbling about 9 percent Wednesday. The iShares Silver Trust
The market has to differentiate between selling in commodities as a result of margin requirements against the overall backdrop of the global and U.S. economy, Canally said.
Still, the commodities slump is front and center among drivers of the equities market, said Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in New York.
Watching commodities' volatility increase is just making people aware the potential exists for equity volatility to pick up in a similar fashion, Meckler said.
Cisco Systems Inc
S&P 500 futures fell 3.6 points and were below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration of the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures lost 37 points and Nasdaq 100 futures dropped 11.5 points.
Fair value indicates the S&P 500 could hold above 1,330 at the open. According to some technical analysts, a string of closes below that level could signal a near-term market top and trigger further selling. Last week's low above 1,329 provides technical support.
The Reuters/Jefferies CRB index <.CRB>, a broad measure of commodity performance, has lost 8.8 percent so far in May.
U.S. crude futures lost 1 percent and the United States Oil Fund LP
(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)