Stock index futures were poised for a modest rise Thursday as Wall Street prepares for the latest reading on the unemployment picture.
But gains were limited as oil prices added to the previous day's declines that were the worst since July. And the market was continuing to weight comments from the Federal Reserve that indicated the central bank will continue phasing out easy money policies.
In corporate news, Citigroup is expected to narrow the focus of its branch network to six major metropolitan areas, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The bank will focus on New York, Washington, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles, paring business in Boston, Philadelphia and Texas.
Citi shares gained 1.1 percent in premarket trading.
The market also is watching as the largest run of initial public offerings to hit Wall Street in two years accelerates.
A123 Systems increased the number of shares in its IPO and priced them at $13.50 apiece, which helped raise $380.4 million, well above the expected amount. The shares will be available Thursday on the Nasdaq under the symbol AONE.
Elsewhere in tech, Microsoft shot down talk that it might take over Electronic Arts, sending shares of the gaming company down more than 3 percent premarket.
Wednesday's sudden late reversal that sent the major averages negative for the day highlights just how conflicted investors are: on one hand, they want to see signs of an economic recovery. On the other, they're somewhat disturbed by the idea that the Fed may tighten sooner rather than later.
The Dow rose above 9,900 points briefly before the last hour selloff, finishing at 9,748 points.
The Labor Department's weekly report on initial jobless claims may be a key to today's trading, or at least to the open. Economists are looking for initial claims of 550,000 compared to last week's reading of 545,000.
At 10 am New York time, the National Association of Realtors is out with August existing home sales, with the consensus forecast calling for a 2.9 percent increase over July levels.
The Treasury completes its three-day sale of $112 billion dollars in debt by auctioning $29 billion in 7-year notes. As usual, the results will be available shortly after 1 pm.
One after-the-bell earnings report of note comes today, will come from Blackberry maker Research In Motion .- Peter Schacknow, senior producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk, contributed to this report.