Futures pointed lower Thursday after a pair of economic reports came in worse than expected.
Initial jobless claims rose by 32,000last week to 637,000, well above the 610,000 expected. The total number of people seeking unemployment benefits soared to another new record at 6.56 million.
Meanwhile, wholesale prices rose 0.3 percent in April, more than the 0.2 percent expected.
Stocks had been pointing higher after Wal-Mart hit analysts' earnings target.
Wal-Mart reported first-quarter earnings of 77 cents a share and little changed from the year-ago period. Excluding currency impact, sales came in at $98.3 billion.
Shares of the world's largest retailer, though, edged lower in premarket trading.
Some of the bigger bank shares were edging higher before the bell, though there were mixed signals elsewhere.
Cliffs Natural Resources saw its share price continue to tumble, a day after the iron ore and coal miner said it was cutting its dividend by more than half, launching a public offering of 12 million shares and slashing executives' salaries in an effort to cut costs.
After shedding nearly 20 percent Wednesday the stock was off another 5.7 percent premarket Thursday.
Wednesday's weak U.S. retail sales data dragged down Asian and European markets. But European stocks have recently pared losses to stand mixed on the day.
Oil and gas was the weakest sector after the International Energy Agency said world oil demand will post the sharpest annual decline since 1981 this year, sending crude prices below $57 a barrel.
Technology stocks were also under pressure on Thursday, after electronic giant Sony reported a second straight quarterly loss and it forecast a smaller-than-expected annual loss for the year ahead.
Ford is holding its annual meeting today in Wilmington, Del.
At 10 am New York time, a hearing on the insurance industry begins on Capitol Hill. And Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will hold a press conference at 10:45 am with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to provide an update on the Administration's housing plan.
President Obama will hold a town hall meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico on credit card debt at noon.
In other corporate news, a group of major banks said they were suing MBIA late Wednesday, charging that the bond insurer illegally restructured its operation by moving $5 billion of assets and leaving a key unit effectively bankrupt, according to Reuters.
U.S. regulators have recommended filing a civil fraud suit against Countrywide Financial co-founder Angelo Mozilo for insider trading, the Wall Street Journal reported late Wednesday.
And Lehman Brothers , which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2008, is looking at spinning off its remaining assets, the Journal said in an unsourced article.