Dow futures down nearly 250 pts; retail disappoints

Cramer: Markets 'whippy'
Cramer: Markets 'whippy'   

U.S. stock-index futures signaled a lower open on Wednesday, as retail sales for December disappointed and weak oil prices hit copper and mining stocks.

JPMorgan Chase dropped in early New York trading after reporting a decline in fourth-quarter profit; Wells Fargo dropped after the mortgage lender posted results in line with expectations.

Already sharply lower, stock futures fell harder after the Commerce Department reported retail sales slid the most in a year last month, down 0.9 percent.

Falling oil prices continue to weigh on global equity markets. On Tuesday, the commodity fell near six-year lows, extending losses after trading lower for seven straight weeks. Meanwhile, copper prices also hit five-and-a-half-year lows overnight, causing severe selling in miners.

Read MoreInvestors go long gold, short copper in oil freefall

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Getty Images
A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

European equities fell sharply in morning trade, with London's FTSE dragged over 1 percent lower, as copper miner Antofagasta slumped around 9 percent and Glencore traded 8 percent lower.

Burberry is also in focus after the fashion house reported better-than-expected comparable sales growth for the final quarter of last year, but warned that poor sales in Hong Kong could hit full-year profitability.

The Fed will also release its Beige Book today at 2pm ET. Import/export data and business inventories are also expected at 08:30 am ET and 10:00 am ET respectively.

In other news, the World Bank on Tuesday lowered its global growth forecasts for 2015 and 2016 due to disappointing economic prospects in the euro zone, Japan and some major emerging economies that offset the benefit of lower oil prices.