Stocks futures added to losses after weekly jobless claims showed the labor market was still under pressure and the dollar posted an unexpected gain.
The losses come a day after the Federal Reserve reiterated its special liquidity measures would expire early next year, dragging bank stocks down.
The dollar hit a three-month high versus the euro and was generally stronger across the board following slightly optimistic assessment of the U.S. economy from the Fed.
In the meantime, the government said the number of U.S. workers filing new applications for jobless insurance unexpectedly rose 7,000to a seasonally adjusted 480,000 in the week ended Dec. 12 from a slightly downwardly revised 473,000 in the prior week. It was the second straight week initial claims rose.
The central bank remains in focus on Thursday as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's nomination for a second term as chairman will be considered by the Senate Banking Committee, and although approval is expected, the hearing will not be without fireworks from those opposed to Bernanke's renomination.
As for stocks, they come off a mixed session, having lost most of their modest gains following the conclusion of the Fed meeting Wednesday.
Investors will wait to see what impact the latest news from Citigroup may have on the overall market, as Citi's secondary offering prices below expectations at $3.15 per share.
The Treasury followed that news with word that it would not participate in that offering. It issued a statement saying it expects to divest the government's ownership stake in Citi over the next 12 months.
Citigroup's stock was down 7 percent in premarket trading.
Bank of America was also in the news after naming Brian Moynihan as President and Chief Executive Officer as of year's end. He will replace the retiring Kenneth Lewis.
Elsewhere, Harley-Davidson shares came under pressure after Goldman Sachs added the motorcycle maker to its conviction sell list. Harley shares fell 5 percent premarket.
Two reports of interest are out at 10 am New York time include the Conference Board's Index of Leading Economic Indicators, and the monthly Philadelphia Fed survey. The LEI is seen rising 0.7 percent for November, on top of October's 0.3 percent gain, while the Philly Fed index is expected to come in at 16.4 for December, slightly below the November reading of 16.7.
At 10:30 am New York time, the Energy Information Agency is out with its weekly natural gas inventory report.
It's yet another day when the earnings calendar is light, yet contains a handful of notable names for investors to follow.
Before the opening bell, the latest quarterly numbers from Discover Financial, FedEx, and General Mills will come out, while after-the-bell reports include Darden Restaurants, Oracle, Palm, Research In Motion, and Take-Two Interactive.