Investing.com - U.S. stock futures pointed to a moderately higher open on Friday, as markets awaited the release of U.S. economic reports later in the day, although concerns over ongoing tensions in Ukraine and the economic outlook for China were expected to limit gains.
Ahead of the open, the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.07% gain, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.13% rise, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.14% increase.
Investors remained cautious after Russia launched new military exercises near its border with Ukraine on Thursday, showing no sign of backing down on plans to annex Crimea.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said serious steps would be imposed by the U.S. and Europe if the referendum on Crimea joining Russia takes place on Sunday as planned.
Markets were also jittery after data on Thursday showed that Chinese industrial production rose 8.6% in the first two months of 2014, missing market expectations for an increase of 9.5%, while Chinese retail sales rose by a smaller-than-forecast 11.8% in the same period.
Retailers were expected to be active, after Aeropostale Inc. forecast a steeper loss than estimated late Thursday and agreed to borrow $150 million, sending shares down 11.92% in after-hour trade.
The insurance sector was also likely to be in focus, as American International Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Robert Benmosche and four other senior managers reportedly received cash bonuses that exceeded their targets last year.
AIG shares edged up 0.18% in extended trade.
Elsewhere, General Electric was up 0.12% pre-market at its North American credit card business filed with U.S. regulators for an initial public offering of common stock as part of GE''s efforts to reduce exposure to its financial businesses.
Oil and gas giant BP was also slated to be in the spotlight, with shares rising 0.27% in early trading, after the Environmental Protection Agency granted it the right to again compete for U.S. contracts and for new leases in the Gulf of Mexico, where its massive 2010 oil spill had prompted regulators to bar it from new government business.
Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were mixed to lower. The EURO STOXX 50 declined 0.69%, France’s CAC 40 retreated 0.64%, Germany''s DAX slid 0.31%, while Britain''s FTSE 100 fell 0.23%.
During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong''s Hang Seng Index tumbled 1%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index plunged 3.30%.