U.S. stocks were headed for a lower open on Tuesday after data showed weaker retail sales last month, raising a question mark about a recovery in consumer spending.
Sales at U.S. retailers in January were pressured by anemic receipts at building materials and restaurant outlets, likely reflecting the effects from snowstorms that had slammed large parts of the country.
The retail sales were a little disappointing, particularly because the general trend for retailers has been positive, said Charles Bobrinskoy, vice chairman at Chicago-based Ariel Investments LLC, which oversees about $5.5 billion in assets. The question is, how much of this was weather-related?
Wall Street was lifted on Monday by modest gains in the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, but the lowest volumes so far this year indicated an equities rally may be peaking after the S&P 500 rose 13 percent since December.
S&P 500 futures fell 2.7 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 12 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures were off 3.25 points.
In other economic reports, a gauge of manufacturing in New York State climbed to its highest level in eight months in February, while separate data showed U.S. import prices jumped at nearly double the forecast as energy costs shot up in another sign of creeping inflationary pressure.
China reported 4.9 percent inflation, below forecasts, but price pressures excluding food were at their strongest level in at least a decade and could force the central bank to keep tightening monetary policy. Gold and copper prices gained, supported by a weaker dollar.
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NYSE Euronext shares had been briefly halted, but resumed to trade down 4 percent at $37.86 premarket.
(Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)