Wall Street was set to open flat to higher on Thursday, with investors eyeing retail sales and weekly jobless data for fresh insight into the state of the recession-hit economy.
Investors will also watch a 30-year treasury note auction for direction on interest rates, one day after a weak 10-year auction sent yields on the benchmark note to a eight-month high. The latest results are due at 1 p.m. EDT.
Stock investors have been concerned that rates may dampen an economic recovery by increasing borrowing costs for consumers and businesses and are drawing money away from the stock market.
Probably the real mover of the day will be retail sales, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners in New York. That will give us an insight as to whether or not the consumer is still overly cautious in spending or whether confidence is beginning to return.
S&P 500 futures rose 1.10 points and were above 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 added 12 points, while Nasdaq 100 futures were up 4.50 points.
The S&P 500 is up 39 percent since hitting a 12-year low on March 9, but has been little changed since early May as investors look for signs the economy is on the mend and mull the impact of rising interest rates and oil prices.
A further concern for investors, the price of oil continued to move higher. The recent upward trend has led to worries that excessive price rises could harm a recovery. U.S. front-month crude rose 1 percent after settling at the highest level in seven months on Wednesday.
However, in a positive sign on the economic front, Chinese investment surged in May on the back of large government stimulus spending, fanning hopes that the world's third-largest economy may help to lead a global recovery.
Retail sales are expected to have risen in May for the first time in three months, helped by rising gasoline prices and an uptick in demand for cars and light trucks. May sales, due at 8:30 a.m. are forecast to rise 0.5 percent, after falling 0.4 percent in April, according a Reuters poll.
Weekly jobless claims, also due at 8:30 a.m. , are expected to be lower by 6,000 to 615,000 for the latest week. Last week, the monthly payrolls data showed a mixed picture, with a slowing in the number of job losses in May but a rise in the unemployment rate.
In research news, brokerage KBW boosted its rating on Bank of America Corp
Data due after the market opens includes business inventories for April, expected to show a contraction of 1 percent for the month, in line with March's decline.
U.S. stocks fell Wednesday on worries that rising interest rates could hurt spending, but stocks pared losses late in the session to finish off the day's lows.
(Reporting by Edward Krudy; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)