* Futures down: Dow 41 pts, S&P 8 pts, Nasdaq 25 pts (Updates prices, adds data)
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, Dec 16 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set to fall at the open on Tuesday as a further slide in crude oil prices and the Russian rouble sent traders fleeing from risky assets on global economic concerns.
Futures crumbled in early trading as the rouble neared 80 per U.S. dollar, then slightly pared losses. The rouble was recently down about 11 percent on the session, near 73 per dollar.
The rouble’s decline came even as Moscow’s central bank hiked its main interest rate to 17 percent from 10.5 percent. Russia’s MICEX stock index was up 1.5 percent after earlier falling as much as 8.5 percent.
Brent crude lost more than 3 percent to $58.98 per barrel after hitting a low of $58.50, and U.S. crude was down almost 4 percent at $53.75, near its session low.
Adding to global concerns, data showed factory activity shrinking in China and euro zone business growth remaining weak.
“The market is reflecting a global macro concern more than anything,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York.
“The trigger point is commodities, in this case oil, in a free fall, forcing people to completely avoid stocks. Until we get some stabilization in energy prices I think we’re going to continue to see that trade.”
S&P 500 e-mini futures were down 8 points and fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract, indicated a lower open. Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures fell 41 points and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures lost 25 points.
Brent prices have fallen nearly 50 percent from a high in June. The 20-day correlation between the S&P 500 and Brent prices shifter sharply in the past days, going from -0.86 in late November to 0.67 on Monday.
Plunging oil prices could heighten geopolitical tensions, trigger defaults by U.S. shale oil and gas firms, and destabilize euro zone inflation expectations, the Bank of England warned on Tuesday.
The heightened global growth concerns sharpen the focus on the Federal Reserve’s two-day meeting, which begins on Tuesday with a statement and news conference expected on Wednesday. Fed officials will decide this week whether to make a critical change to their policy statement that could bring closer the decision to rise rates next year.
U.S. housing starts and permits fell in November, but the underlying trend remained consistent with an improving housing market.
U.S. data due later in the day include Markit’s gauge of the manufacturing sector. (Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)