Wall Street was set for a flat open on Thursday after weak U.S. jobless numbers and moderate manufacturing data out of China raised questions about the strength of global economic growth.
The number of workers seeking unemployment insurance rose unexpectedly last week, heightening fears the labor market recovery was stalling. The government will report the closely watched non-farm payrolls data on Friday.
The market is not going to like this. This tells me that the economy is not creating enough jobs to bring down the unemployment rate. We have a lot uncertainties, said Craig Thomas, senior economist at PNC Financial Services in Pittsburgh.
S&P 500 futures fell 0.4 points and were slightly 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 rose 4 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 3 points.
Global equities markets came under pressured after the Chinese data showed moderation in the world's third-largest economy, but no precipitous drop that some investors feared. The Nikkei average closed down 2 percent while European markets fell almost 1 percent.
Investors awaited U.S. pending home sales for May and the Institute for Supply Management's June manufacturing index, both due at 10:00 a.m. EDT.
Economists in a Reuters survey expected a 12.5 percent decline in pending home sales from a 6 percent rise, and a reading of 59.0 versus 59.7 in May for the ISM manufacturing
June U.S. auto sales will come later Thursday.
On Wednesday, the S&P 500 <.SPX> fell below the key 1,040 level held since February, falling from what chartists called a very bearish head and shoulders trend reversal pattern, pointing to a major retreat in coming months.
For the quarter ended Wednesday, stock suffered their worst losses since the market meltdown triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Corp.
Worries over Moody's placing Spain on review for a potential downgrade on Wednesday also kept markets pressured, but Madrid managed to sell 3.5 billion euros of five-year bonds at the top end of its target amount.
Tender results for short-term European Central Bank funds suggested euro zone banks were managing to repay emergency loans, lifting some market anxiety.
The six-day ECB funds, largely in line with expectations, helped the euro to hold gains after many had feared that some banks may desperate for funds.
Shares of Citigroup Inc edged up 1 percent to $3.80 before the bell after the U.S. Treasury said it sold 1.1 billion Citi shares to complete the second tranche of a stock sale plan.
(Reporting by Angela Moon; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)