Wall Street was poised to begin an abbreviated session with light selling Friday after logging a huge advance in the previous four trading days and as investors brace for what's expected to be a weak holiday shopping season.
Any decline in the market wouldn't be a surprise after the broader market posted its first run of four straight advances since the spring.
With the stock market closing three hours early at 1 p.m. EST and many traders gone for a long holiday weekend, the session is expected to be quiet. Thin trading volume could exacerbate some of the market's moves but stock futures, which fell moderately, indicated a modest decline at the open.
Investors likely will focus on the prospects for the holiday shopping period, which begins in earnest Friday. Wall Street expects a weak showing by retailers as consumers, nervous about lost jobs, falling home values and a jittery stock market, grow more restrained in their spending this year.
A rare decline in year-over-year holiday spending would be troubling as it is the most important slice of the year for most retailers and because consumer purchases account for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. But much of the evidence arriving Friday from retailers is likely to be anecdotal as it will be too early to tally cash register receipts or gain much insight into shoppers' behavior.
Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 58, or 0.67 percent, to 8,640. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures fell 8.30, or 0.94 percent, to 877.90, while Nasdaq 100 index futures declined 14.50, or 1.21 percent, to 1,180.00. Futures contracts can be an imperfect predictor of market sentiment as light volume can distort price moves. A move lower would be expected as the Dow surged 247 points, or 2.91 percent, on Wednesday ahead of Thanksgiving. The Dow booked four straight advances for the first time since April 15-18 and saw its biggest four-day gain since 1932.
It was the S&P 500's first four-day streak of gains since May 27-30 and its largest rally since 1933.
Bond prices were mixed Friday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 2.94 percent from 2.99 percent late Wednesday. The yield on the three-month T-bill, considered one of the safest investments, rose to 0.05 percent from 0.03 percent Wednesday.
The dollar mostly rose against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.
Light, sweet crude fell 95 cents to $53.49 per barrel in premarket electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average fell 0.23 percent. Stocks in India rose a day after trading was suspended because of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the country's financial capital. The Sensex Index ended the day with an advance of 0.7 percent.
In afternoon trading, Germany's DAX index fell 1.78 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 1.88 percent.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)