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.
Investors demanded a yield of 3.29 percent on the 3.25 percent bond maturing in October 2021, above the 3.18 percent fixed when it was last auctioned on December 1, reflecting concerns that France is on the brink of losing its triple-A credit rating.
That followed a subdued German bond auction on Wednesday, with Berlin attracting only slightly better demand than was seen at a disastrous sale last year.
Among retailers, Macy's , Limited and Zumiez , posted solid same-store sales resultsand boosted their earnings forecast.
However, Target fell after the big-box retailer missed expectations and lowered its outlook for the fourth quarter.
Pepsi slipped following a report that the beverage giant may be considering axing nearly 4,000 employeesand lowering pension contributions in an effort to raise earnings.
Eastman Kodak continued to tumble following reports the firm is preparing a bankruptcy protection filingin case it is unable to sell its digital patents to raise capital.
Mosaic gained after the fertilizer producer posted better-than-expected earnings.
Monsanto also rose after the agribusiness company topped profit estimates, helped by their growing business in South America and strong U.S. seeds orders ahead of spring planting.
—Follow JeeYeon Park on Twitter: twitter.com/JeeYeonParkCNBC—
On Tap This Week:
THURSDAY: ISM non-mfg index, oil inventories
FRIDAY: Non-farm payrolls
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