Futures slipped again Thursday even after a handful of encouraging data on the employment front as ongoing jitters over the euro zone's debt crisis kept investors from jumping in.
The number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms fell 1.6 percent last month, tumbling to its lowest level since June, according to the report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Meanwhile, private sector employment climbed 325,000 in December, much stronger than expected, according to payrolls processor ADP.
And claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 15,000 last weekto a seasonally adjusted 372,000, according to the Labor Department. Economists polled by Reuters had expected claims falling to 375,000.
The three reports come ahead of Friday's all-important December non-farm payrolls report, a key indicator of whether the US economic recovery is still on track.
In addition, December's U.S. ISM non-manufacturing index will be released at 10 am ET.
The euro dropped below $1.29 as markets refocused on concerns about the euro zone debt crisis. A French debt auction got decent demand but yields edged up.
France sold 7.96 billion euros ($10.21 billion) of 10 to 30 year bonds after receiving total bids for nearly 15 billion euros.