U.S. Equity Futures Mixed Ahead of PPI, Consumer Data

U.S. S&P 500 stock index futures inched higher on Friday, indicating the index may hold its ground after its biggest decline since early February, ahead of data on inflation and consumer confidence.

Equities tumbled on Thursday on rising concerns over Ukraine and Russia and new signs of an economic slowdown in China.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will seek assurances from Russia on Friday that it will not seek to annex Crimea and will address concerns over Ukraine through negotiation, a senior State Department official said before talks in London.

Kerry's meeting is an attempt to defuse tension between Moscow and the West ahead of a referendum, which looks set to proceed on Sunday, that will decide whether Crimea will become part of Russia, a Russian-majority region of Ukraine.

Russia's navy said fighter jets had started training exercises over the Mediterranean Sea, an announcement that is likely to raise tensions in the standoff with Ukraine over the future of Crimea.

Data expected on Friday includes the producer price index reading for February at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT) and the preliminary Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers for March at 9:55 a.m. (1355 GMT). PPI for final demand is expected to show an increase of 0.2 percent, matching January's increase, while the consumer sentiment index is expected to show a reading of 82.

S&P 500 e-mini futures rose 0.75 points and were slightly above 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 were down 4 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 3.25 points.

General Mills Inc <GIS.N> fell 2.8 percent to $49.56 in premarket trade after the food maker provided its third-quarter and full year outlook.

Aeropostale Inc <ARO.N> slumped 14.7 percent before the opening bell after the teen apparel retailer reported its fifth straight quarterly loss.

European shares fell to five-week lows, with German blue chips among the worst hit, while Asian shares dropped to a one-month low as tensions in Ukraine ahead of a weekend referendum unnerved investors