(REUTERS) -- Stock index futures pointed to a lower opening on Wall Street on Thursday, with futures for the S&P 500 down 0.6 percent, Dow Jones futures down 0.57 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures down 0.58 percent at 1000 GMT.

Germany's manufacturing sector shrank for the first time this year in March on the back of falling new orders, raising concern over its resilience to the eurozone crisis, and sending European share prices down more than 1 percent in morning trade.

The eurozone's economy took an unexpected turn for the worse in March, hit by a sharp fall in French and German factory activity that even the most pessimistic economists failed to predict, business surveys showed on Thursday.

The purchasing managers indexes (PMIs), which capture how thousands of companies have fared over the month, effectively quashed any lingering hopes that the eurozone might avoid falling into a new recession.

China's economic momentum also slowed in March as factory activity shrank for a fifth straight month, leaving investors fretting about the risks to global growth and anticipating fresh policy support from Beijing.

The HSBC flash purchasing managers index, the earliest indicator of China's industrial activity, fell back to 48.1 from February's four-month high of 49.6. New orders sank to a four-month low, an expected rebound in export orders failed to emerge and new hiring slumped to a two-year low.

Investors awaited U.S. weekly jobless claims, due at 1230 GMT, the home price index, due at 1400 GMT, as well as leading indicators, also due at 1400 GMT.

Toys R Us Inc., which plans to go public, posted a drop in fourth-quarter sales as the world's largest specialty toy retailer opened fewer temporary stores during the holiday season.

A Brazilian federal prosecutor filed criminal charges on Wednesday against Chevron and drill-rig operator Transocean for a November oil spill, raising the stakes in a legal saga that has added to Chevron's woes in Latin America and could slow Brazil's offshore oil boom.

Discover Financial Services' quarterly profit beat Wall Street expectations for the eighth straight quarter, as more Americans used its credit cards, and the company said it was speeding up its expansion into international markets.

Diamond Foods Inc., grappling with high levels of debt, said it had reached a deal with its lenders to get continued access to its credit facility in return for suspending its dividend and paying higher interest costs.

McDonald's Corp.'s chief executive Jim Skinner, who took the top post at the world's biggest hamburger chain after the abrupt departures of two predecessors, is retiring after more than seven years at the helm.

Raymond James Financial Inc. warned on Wednesday that financing costs for its acquisition of Morgan Keegan would hurt this quarter's earnings but added 98 percent of Morgan Keegan's advisors that got retention incentive offers will stay with the firm.

Japan's NEC Corp. said on Thursday it would buy U.S. telecoms firm Convergys Corp.'s business support operations, which span billing and client support services, for $450 million, as it hunts for new telecom equipment sales abroad.

U.S. stocks mostly fell on Wednesday, weighed by the energy services sector, but gains in technology shares buoyed the Nasdaq and helped keep the S&P 500 near four-year highs.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 45.57 points, or 0.35 percent, to 13,124.62 at the close. The S&P 500 Index dipped 2.63 points, or 0.19 percent, to 1,402.89. The Nasdaq Composite edged up 1.17 points, or 0.04 percent, to 3,075.32.

(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Greg Mahlich)