Stock futures pointed to a slightly lower open for Wall Street as traders were unfazed by a report that showed import prices spiking more than 2 percent in August.
The Labor Department report attributed the gains to a jump in oil, as import prices excluding energy were up a more benign 0.4 percent.
But world stocks hit fresh 11-month highs as a weak dollar — indicating appetite for risk — and robust Chinese economic data boosted sentiment. The dollar hit its lowest level against a basked of currencies in a year.
The US government is anxious to shed stakes in financial companies but will take care not to do so too soon, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told a CNBC town hall meeting.
"The classic mistake that countries make in crises is they put the brakes on too early, they reignite the recession ultimately at much greater fiscal costs and much greater damage to the economy. That's the balance we've got to get right," Geithner said.
Oil prices, a key tracker of stock movements over the six-month rally, provided little direction as US light, sweet crude was modestly lower in early trading.
Financial giant Morgan Stanley could be in focus after CEO John Thain confirmed he will be stepping down early next year. Though the move was widely expected, it likely will intensify speculation about the firm's future direction. Shares edged higher in premarket trading.
Also in financials, Goldman Sachs gained 1 percent premarket as Citigroup said the firm is poised to gain market share. Citi raised and raised its earnings guidance for Goldman, citing strong capital markets activity, a drop in systemic risk and a better deal climate.
Oil services giant Schlumberger rose 2 percent after Goldman raised its rating on the company to a "buy" and reiterated its positive view on the space.
In deal news, HSBC has made a $1.63 billion bid for Dutch financial group ING's private banking business, Reuters said, quoting a report in The Sunday Times. Other bids are expected from DBS, a Singaporean investment fund, and Swiss wealth manager Julius Baer. American depositary shares of ING fell more than 1 percent premarket.
Also, Alcoa shares were called a bit higher premarket after the aluminum producer and Dow component said it will continue working with Chinese companies in a quest for mergers and acquisitions.
Endowments of Harvard and Yale, the richest universities in the US, lost roughly 30 percent of their value last year, illustrating how even the best managers suffered because of the crisis.
On the economic front, data on import prices excluding oil and export prices excluding agricultural products for August are due to be released at 8:30 am New York time.
Preliminary data on the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for September will be released at 9:55 am.
In earnings news, Brady and Campbell Soup will report results before the bell.