Stock Futures Dip as Stimulus Hopes Dim

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U.S. stock-index futures fell on Friday amid signs policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic are holding off on fresh easing for the time being with Europe's debt crisis threatening to ensnare its highest-profile victim yet.

Today's Markets

As of 8:35 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 47 points to 12361, S&P 500 futures dipped 4 points to 1306 and Nasdaq 100 futures slipped 4.5 points to 2526.

With little in the way of economic data released this week, market participants have been focused on a stream of commentary from global central banks. However, much of the news has come as a disappointment. The European Central Bank and Bank of England both held off on making changes to their monetary policy, while commentary from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was interpreted as suggesting the central bank isn't quite ready to unleash another round of easing. Meanwhile, China slashed its benchmark lending and deposit rates, stoking fears among some analysts that it will presage the release of weak data from the world's No. 2 economy.

This comes at a time when the economic backdrop is growing to be increasingly dim. The growth rate in U.S. and China appears to be slowing down, while Europe's woes continue deepening. Indeed, Spain, the fourth-largest eurozone economy, is planning on asking the European Union for help rescuing its banking sector this weekend, according to a report by Reuters, citing unnamed sources. A separate report from Dow Jones Newswires says high-level EU officials will be talking on a conference call this weekend.

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in April to $50.06 billion from $52.62 billion in March. Economists had been expecting the deficit to fall to $49.5 billion. Looking into the report, exports dipped 0.8%, while imports dropped 1.7%. While the report is a lagging indicator, the difference between the imports and exports figures directly into broader gauges of second-quarter economic growth. The bigger the deficit, the more it detracts from gross domestic product.

Later in the morning, traders will get a look at wholesale inventories, which provides information on how much inventory businesses are keeping in stock.

Commodities were sharply lower amid worries the slowing global economy may hurt worldwide demand. The benchmark crude oil contract traded in New York sold off by $2.44, or 2.9%, to $82.38 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline fell 2.2% to $2.63 a gallon.

In metals, gold fell $7.10, or 0.44%, to $1,581 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 fell 0.7% to 2128, the English FTSE 100 slid 0.96% to 5396 and the German DAX slumped 0.91% to 6088.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 tumbled 2.1% to 8459 and the Chinese Hang Seng skidded lower by 0.94% to 18502.