Stock index futures followed international markets lower Monday, but Wall Street is coming off a bullish trend that could continue given some stronger economic numbers.
Sentiment was weak early after Moody's said credit risks have grown for the United States and the other largest issuers of sovereign debt, even though the AAA ratings of those countries remain intact. While stock futures slid, the dollar and yen gained as safe-haven bets against the potential credit hazards.
The news out of Moody's as well on reports that China could start tightening money to pull back on growth.
But losses were limited after Citigroup upgraded raised retailing giant Wal-Mart to a "buy" from "hold," sending the Dow component's shares up nearly 1 percent in premarket trading.
In the morning's economic news, the Empire State Manufacturing Index slipped to 22.86 in March, a bit better than expected.
And industrial production ticked up 0.1 percent in February, roughly in line with expectations, while capacity utilization rose to 72.7 from 72.5.
Still to come: Homebuilder sentiment is due out at 1pm ET. Economists expected the gauge to remain unchanged for March, with consensus for the NAHB's monthly index at a reading of 17. That report comes at 1 pm.
The major averages have risen for four of the past five weeks into solidly positive territory for the year. The next significant signpost ahead is the week's meeting of Federal Reserve policymakers set for Tuesday. This is a one-day meeting, the first time the Federal Open Market Committee has had a regularly scheduled single-day meeting since September 2008.
Ahead of that, there's plenty on the economic calendar.
Health care and financial reform will both be in focus this week, as Democratic leaders try to muster enough support to pass a health bill without Republican help, and as Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) unveils a new version of financial regulatory reform today at 2 pm.
Royal Dutch Shell says it and PetroChina are still in talks to acquire Arrow Energy, despite a report indicating that Arrow is likely to reject an offer. Shell shares dropped nearly 1 percent in premarket trading.
Also in deal news, Phillips-Van Heusen said it is nearing a deal to acquire clothing manufacturer Tommy Hilfigerfor about $3 billion.
Toyota is in the news once again, as a probe calls into question a widely publicized story about a runaway Prius. The memo says investigators test drove the care and were not able to duplicate the problem.
AIGis also in the news as it holds back $21 million in retention bonuses from current and former employees of its financial products unit. The cuts may help AIG lessen the outcry over bonuses paid to workers of the unit seen as responsible for its near-collapse in 2008. AIG shares fell 1 percent premarket.
- Written by Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk.