Stock index futures briefly pared losses as inflation remained tame and New York manufacturing rose more than expected in January.
But the stock market was likely to open lower, despite positive earnings reports from JPMorgan Chase and Intel.
Government reports showed consumer prices rose 0.1 percent in December from November on modest gains in food and energy costs, while the Empire State manufacturing index hit 15.92 in January, a huge leap from its 4.50 reading in December.
Its shares fell in premarket trading, likely because the company despite its strong profit came in weak on top-line revenue, ian n increasingly important factor to investors as the market fights to reclaim its former highs. The stock was well off its lows, though, losing about 0.7 percent with an hour or so to go before the opening bell.
It's been a week of relatively modest movement for Wall Street's major averages, with the Dow and S&P 500 currently higher for the week, and the Nasdaq virtually unchanged.
Intel rose 0.5 percent in premarket trading after reporting quarterly profit of 40 cents per share, 10 cents above estimates, and giving a bullish outlook as well.
The market will get more economic news after the opening bell.
At 9:15 am, the Federal Reserve issues industrial production and factory capacity utilization numbers for December.
Consensus forecasts call for a 0.6 percent rise in industrial production, compared to a November rise of 0.8 percent, and a 71.8 percent reading for capacity utilization compared to the prior month's 71.3 percent.
And at 9:55 am, the University of Michigan's early January consumer sentiment reading is likely to come in at 74.0, compared to December's final reading of 72.5.
In deal news, a major move in the cosmetics industry was helping move markets.
Japan's Shiseido is buying San Francisco-based Bare Escentuals for $1.7 billion, the biggest acquisition in Shiseido's 138-year history. The deal, which equates to a 43 percent premium of $18.20 a share, lifted Bare Escentual's shares about 42 percent.
Hersha Hospitality Trust will offer 45 million common shares at $3, sending its price down 3.6 percent.
Royal Bank of Scotland said it will sell its landmark London property, the Grosvenor Hotel, up for sale, sending shares up 3 percent.
Elsewhere, there is one Fed speaker on the calendar today: Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker will give a speech on the economic outlook at 12:30 pm at a luncheon in Richmond, Va.
Video game stocks may react to a report from NPD Group that showed revenue from video game and console sales rose at a 4 percent annual rate in December. The report indicates consumers are much more enthusiastic about the consoles right now than they are about the games.
Published reports this morning say Citigroup plans to dole out bonuses for 2009 that will be similar to 2008 payouts, and that Citi may cap individual cash payouts at about $60,000.
- Written by Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk.