* Producer prices, UMich consumer sentiment data on tap
* General Mills falls after outlook
* Aeropostale drops after earnings
* Futures: Dow down 4 pts, S&P up 0.75 pts, Nasdaq up 3.25
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, March 14 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
* 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
* 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
* General Mills Inc fell 2.8 percent to $49.56 in
premarket trade after the food maker provided its third-quarter
and full year outlook.
* Aeropostale Inc 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.