U.S. stock index futures fell in thin, choppy trading on Thursday as investors were skeptical that the latest European Union summit would agree upon concrete measures to tackle the region's debt crisis.
Financial shares were in focus, with JPMorgan losing ground on a report that recent trading losses could reach $9-billion (U.S.) and Barclays stock down 12 per cent in the aftermath of a probe into the manipulation of interbank lending rates.
EU leaders go into a meeting on Thursday more openly divided than at any time since the euro crisis began, with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel showing no sign of relenting in her refusal to back other countries' debts.
A spokesman for German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that a report that Germany could be willing to move sooner than expected to accept shared liability of euro zone debt was not true.
Yields on 10-year and five-year Italian government bonds in the secondary market pared an earlier rise after Rome sold near the top of the range of its planned debt issuance. However, Spanish benchmark 10-year yields hovered near the 7 per cent level that recently forced other highly indebted countries to seek bailouts.
Health-care stocks will be in focus as the U.S. Supreme Court is set to deliver its ruling on President Barack Obama's 2010 health-care overhaul, his signature domestic policy achievement.
Traders awaited U.S. data on weekly jobless claims and the final reading of first-quarter gross domestic product, both due at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT).
"With a busy morning ahead the market is starting the morning with trepidation as any one of the slate of events could alter significantly the path of the day," said Andre Bakhos, director of market analytics at Lek Securities in New York.
S&P 500 futures fell 7.8 points and were below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration of the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures lost 72 points and Nasdaq 100 futures fell 10 points.
Shares of JPMorgan Chase & Co dropped 2.7 per cent in premarket trading in the wake of a New York Times report projecting that losses from a recent botched trade could reach $9-billion in a worst-case scenario, more than four times the original estimate.
U.S.-traded shares of British bank Barclays tumbled 12 per cent premarket a day after an investigation found it had manipulated interbank lending rates over several years, in a probe that could cost the financial industry billions of dollars.
The board of News Corp approved in principle splitting the $60-billion (U.S.) media conglomerate into separate publishing and entertainment businesses, a person familiar with the situation said.
Commodity prices fell as the U.S. dollar strengthened against the euro, possibly hurting prices of stocks in the materials and energy sectors.