NEW YORK -
Stock futures dipped on Wednesday after an Italian debt auction saw soft demand and ahead of data that should give clues on the health of U.S. consumer spending.
Investors will look to February retail sales data, due at 8:30 a.m. ET (1230 GMT), for signs of whether the consumer has been impacted by elevated unemployment and an increase in the payroll tax that went into effect at the start of the year.
"Obviously, we are not going to see consumers spending at full speed ahead, there will be a certain element of restraint due to the payroll tax," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
"But, by and large, they are still going to be on the plus side and today's report will probably keep the bullish tone intact."
The data is expected to show a rise 0.5 percent, compared with a 0.1 percent increase in January, according to Reuters polling. Excluding automobiles, sales are expected to rise 0.5 percent versus a 0.2 percent rise in January.
Italian 10-year yields were last 10 basis points higher at 4.7 percent, slightly up from levels seen before the auction, which saw weaker demand and higher costs than prior auctions.
Concerns about the euro zone's financial stability have become more prominent among investors in the wake of Italy's inconclusive elections, which led to a downgrade of the country's sovereign credit rating by Fitch.
Import-export prices for February are also due at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a 0.5 percent rise in import prices and a 0.3 percent rise in exports.
S&P 500 futures fell 2.9 points and were below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures lost 26 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures shed 5.25 points.
Later in the session at 10:00 a.m. (1400 GMT), business inventories for January are due. Economists in a Reuters survey expect a rise of 0.4 percent versus a 0.1 percent increase in December.
The S&P 500 ended lower on Tuesday, breaking a seven-session string of gains, as investors pulled back from technology and financial stocks, though the Dow eked out the smallest of gains to finish at another all-time closing high. The S&P still remains within striking distance of its all-time closing high of 1,565.15, set on October 9, 2007.
European equities edged lower following a string of weak earnings reports and after Italy's debt auction saw weaker demand and higher borrowing costs than previous auctions.
Asian shares fell on investor concerns that the recent rally in global equities was running out of steam.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)