Wall Street was set for a lower open Tuesday after weaker-than-expected January U.S. retail sales data curbed investors' appetite for risky assets.
The disappointing data added to concerns pressuring stock index futures from early morning. Late on Monday, Moody's ratings downgraded six euro-zone countries.
U.S. retail sales rose less than expected in January as consumers cut back on car purchases and did less online shopping.
(The data is) slightly disappointing, but more or less in line. I don't think there's anything here that really brings into question the fact that the economy has been improving, said Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at John Thomas Financial in New York.
This could just be a blip. I don't think this will be a big issue today, but the rally is starting to get tired, Kaufman said. This could be an excuse for people to take profits.
On Monday, the S&P 500 rose near a seven-month high, up more than 25 percent from a low in early October. The benchmark index is hitting strong resistance in the 1,355-1,360 area, a possible trigger for a pullback.
S&P 500 futures were down 4.8 points and 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 30 points and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 6.25 points.
Late Monday, Moody's put the United Kingdom's Aaa rating in jeopardy for the first time and warned it may cut France and Austria as well. Moody's also downgraded six euro-zone nations, including Spain and Italy.
But data from Germany on Tuesday suggested that Europe's bulwark economy is picking up pace again. The Mannheim-based ZEW economic think tank's monthly poll of economic sentiment jumped to 5.4 from minus 21.6 in January, well above the consensus forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts for a rise to minus 12.0.
In the United States, import prices rose a touch more than expected in January as petroleum and food rebounded strongly, a government report showed on Tuesday. But underlying inflation pressure from imports remained muted.
Pressuring the financial sector, Citigroup downgraded Bank of America Corp
Avon Products Inc
(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)