Stocks were poised for a lower open on Friday after a massive earthquake hit Japan and accelerating inflation in China unnerved investors.
The biggest earthquake on record to struck Japan on Friday, triggering a roughly 30-foot tsunami that swept away everything in its path, including houses, ships and cars.
Chinese inflation topped expectations in February at 4.9 percent and looked set to climb further in coming months, adding to pressure for another dose of monetary tightening.
Japanese stock futures fell 2.4 percent after the earthquake, but market players said the slide may not be too deep because major cities and manufacturing facilities were not affected. <.T>
Basically what has been happening here is earnings season is over in the U.S. and the focus goes from earnings to headlines, said Cort Gwon, chief strategist at HudsonView Capital Management in New York.
You have huge global macro events happening and everybody is focused on these events. You have had almost this perfect storm over the past two days.
Oil prices fell in response to the earthquake, with Brent crude futures down 2.2 percent to near $113, and U.S. crude off 3.1 percent to nearly $100 as the earthquake shut down dozens of plants in the world's third-largest oil consumer.
S&P 500 futures lost 3.4 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 fell 25 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures dropped 4.5 points.
Investors watched the Middle East and North Africa as police flooded the streets of the Saudi capital looking to deter a planned day of demonstrations and small protests were reported in the east.
The Commerce Department said total retail sales rose 1.0 percent, in line with expectations, the largest gain since October and the eighth straight monthly advance.
Insurer Aflac Inc
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)