Stock index futures indicated another down day for Wall Street, as investors doubted whether government intervention would alleviate economic turmoil.
"We are actually in a bit of seesaw trading range at the moment and it's not going to take much to swing it one way or the other," Joshua Raymond, market strategist at City Index, told CNBC.
Best Buy was leading the move lower after the discount retailer slashed its 2009 outlook because of the weak economy and intense pressure on consumers. Shares fell more than 15 percent in premarket trading.
The debate over whether government money should be used to help the auto sector continued to rage. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would bring the House back in session next week to discuss the contentious issue.
Meanwhile, hedge-fund manager William Ackman told Reuters that General Motors should be restructured before it can receive any government cash.
But Ford shares soared 35 percent premarket while GM surged more than 10 percent on growing belief that the automakers will get government help.
Other analysts questioned whether the government would draw the line at automakers in terms of bailouts.
The TARP, or Troubled Asset Relief Program, was also in focus as the U.S. Treasury Department may be shifting the direction of the $700 billion financial rescue plan. The Treasury may require firms to raise private capital to qualify for the scheme, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will give an update on the TARP at midday New York time.
Federal Reserve Vice-Chairman Donald Kohn will also take to the stage at 11 am in Luxembourg and Minneapolis Fed President Gary Stern will speak at 1 pm in the Minnesota city he represents.
Home values continued their downward spiral with their seventh consecutive quarterly decline, real estate website Zillow.com said.
There were troubles elsewhere as well.
Goldman Sachs continued its decline, with shares falling 2.5 percent as the firm contemplates a new direction after the credit crisis.
Energy producers also were under pressure as oil prices continued to fall, with Dow components ExxonMobil and Chevron slipping in premarket trade.
On the earnings front, Macy's will report earnings before the bell.
Oil will also be in focus at 10:35 am as US inventory data is released. The price of a barrel of crude held below $60 a barrel ahead of the announcement.
Asian stocks ended broadly lower and European stocks struggled to remain above water.