Before the bell: Futures remain weak despite surprise rebound in retail sales

U.S. stocks were set for a lower open Thursday morning as futures declined ahead of the release of January retail sales and weekly employment statistics.

On Wednesday, lawmakers announced they had finally agreed on a $789 billion economic stimulus measure in tax cuts and spending designed to create millions of jobs and give the economy reeling from the recession a jump start. President Barack Obama could sign the bill within days as the recovery plan is on track for final votes in the House and Senate. Obama welcomed the agreement.

As if to prove the necessity and urgency of the bill, today's retail sales numbers for January, scheduling to be released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern, are expected to be the worst retail sales report in forty years, and the seventh straight monthly fall. Sales are estimated to have fallen by 0.3% in January according to Briefing.com, after a drop of 2.7% in December. Update: Retail sales surprised and unexpectedly rebounded in January, gaining 1% after a revised 3% drop in December. Initial jobless claims dipped down in the past week, but continuing claims reached a record high. Stock futures, however remained weak.