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Futures Fall on Tightening in China

Stock index futures dropped as world markets were rattled over China's decision to tighten capital requirements for banks.

Though the China has been long expected to continue its tightening measures, the timing of the measure caught markets off guard. China raised capital requirements by 50 basis points, or 0.5 percentage points.

Futures added a bit to losses following a government report showing that retail sales in January excluding autos gained 0.6 percent, about in line with official estimates but a little soft compared to market expectations.

The intense global focus on the Greek economy appears to have subsided in the wake of the backstop pledge from the European Union, which disappointed investors Thursday with its lack of detail. The International Monetary Fund added its backing to the EU support Friday.

Meanwhile, Europe received more bad news in the form of its fourth-quarter gross domestic produce (GDP) report. The region's fragile recovery slumped with powerhouse Germany delivering disappointing results. Greek GDP also missed forecasts with a 2.6 percent year-on-year decline.

On the data front, January's retail sales numbers are released at 8:30 am New York time with analysts expecting a modest gain of 0.3 percent, which would reverse December's 0.3 percent decline. Stripping out auto sales from the numbers, economists predict a gain of 0.6 percent.

This will be followed by a preliminary reading of the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for February at 9:55 am. Forecasts for this month are at 75.0, while the January reading came in below expectations at 72.8.

At 10 am, December's business inventories data will be released, which details the amount of unsold stock held by manufacturers. Economists forecast an increase of 0.2 percent. Staying with manufacturers, at 10 am the Philadelphia Fed survey will be out, which focuses on the outlook for economic sentiment.

Next in line is the delayed EIA data, detailing the size of U.S. fuel inventories, which will be released at 11 am. A survey of analysts by Reuters forecasts crude inventories to have risen 1.5 million barrels last week, with distillate stockpiles falling and gasoline supplies gaining.

In addition, the Senate Banking Subcommittee will discuss the subject of systemic risk at 2:30 pm with Federal Reserve Governor Daniel Tarullo testifying.