Stocks headed to a lower open Monday as concerns about the European debt crisis took the edge off a strong weekend of holiday sales.
The National Retail Federation, a trade group, estimated that 212 million shoppers visited stores and websites during the first weekend of the holiday season, up from 195 million last year. Online spending also rose more than 14 percent from Thanksgiving Day through Saturday, according to IBM's Coremetrics. A fuller picture on spending will come Thursday when retailers report their November revenue.
Investors have been hoping that consumers, who have generally been spending cautiously since the recession, would feel more comfortable about shopping during the holidays. Many economists believe that consumers will have to spend more freely for the economy to put together a stronger recovery.
Traders seemed pleased with the results initially, but it's too soon to tell if sales will remain strong through Christmas.
Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures are down 4, or 0.04 percent, at 11,026. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures are down 1, or 0.1 percent, at 1,182. Nasdaq 100 index futures are down 2, or 0.1 percent, at 2,144.
Investors' enthusiasm about the start of the holiday shopping season was tempered by concerns about Europe's debt problems. Stocks were down on the continent after the European Union signed an international agreement Sunday to provide nearly $90 billion in rescue loans for Ireland. There are still concerns about other European countries, including Portugal and Spain.
Investors were also cautious as they awaited the week's economic reports, including Friday's Labor Department report on employment during November. Also due this week are the Conference Board's survey of consumer confidence on Tuesday, and the Institute for Supply Management's assessments of the manufacturing and services industries.
Oil prices rose to near $85 a barrel as traders responded positively to the Irish bailout. Other commodities also edged up. Gold for February delivery rose $2.20 to $1,366.40 an ounce, while March silver contracts rose 15 cents to $26.930 an ounce.
The dollar dropped against the yen and the euro fell to a fresh two-month low.