The importance has been sharpened after several department-store chains on Thursday disclosed weaker quarterly sales than Wall Street anticipated.
The Dow fell 22 points to end the day at 20,896 and the S&P lost three points to hit 2,390.
The Nasdaq composite rose 5.27 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,121.23.
DATA DUMP: Investors will be assessing reports for fresh insight into the health of the global economy, starting with German first-quarter data that showed economic growth gathered pace by expanding 0.6 percent.
S&P 500 measures the performance of 500 widely held common stocks of large-cap US companies. The Nasdaq Composite is poised for a gain of 0.2%.More news: Analysts Upgrade/Downgrade Activity of Tribune Media Company (TRCO)
The Russell 2000 is down 14.23 points, or 1 percent.
Six of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were lower, with consumer discretionary .SPLRCD dropping 0.6 percent due to Disney and Priceline.
CASCADE EFFECT: Bank stocks have recently been trading in the opposite direction of Treasury yields, because a pickup in interest rates would allow banks to make bigger profits from making loans.
The S&P 500 is on pace for its first weekly loss in the last four, though it remains close to its record.
Oanda analyst Craig Erlam said: "With the Federal Reserve looking to raise interest rates twice more this year and markets eyeing June for the next hike - 83% priced in based on Fed Funds futures - today's inflation and consumer figures are going to be closely followed".More news: Absolver Launches on August 29 for PS4 & PC
Nvidia NVDA.O surged almost 14 percent after the chipmaker reported a better-than-expected jump in quarterly revenue. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.4 percent, South Korea's Kospi fell 0.5 percent and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong ticked up by 0.1 percent.
Gold prices rose $5, or 0.4%, to $1,229.20 an ounce, while the dollar held steady.
GROUP OF SEVEN: Finance ministers from seven of the world's advanced economies are set to gather in Italy this weekend.
The major US equity indexes are trading lower ahead of Friday's release of key USA economic data.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 2 cents to $47.85 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the worldwide standard, rose 7 cents to $50.84 a barrel.More news: Who is Lucie Jones? Get to know the UK's Eurovision challenger