The futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 0.13 percent, the futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were down 0.17 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were down 0.34 percent.
Investors are likely to focus on the weekly U.S. jobless claims data to be reported Thursday. The initial jobless claims report, which measures the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week, is expected to rise to 355,000 in the week ending Feb. 16, up from 341,000 in the previous week.
Investors are also expected focus on the Dept. of Labor's CPI for January to be published Thursday. The CPI, which measures the change in the price of goods and services from consumers' perspective, is expected to rise 1.6 percent in January on annual basis compared from 1.7 percent in December, while core inflation edges down to 1.8 percent from 1.9 percent in the previous month.
In addition, the National Association of Realtors' Existing Home Sales report and Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey will be released after the opening bell. Economists expect that the existing home sales would be at an annual rate of 5 million in January, up from December’s 4.94 million. Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index is expected to show some moderation in February to 1.0 after an unexpectedly sharp decline last month.
Also, market participants will continue to focus on earnings reports, with Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK), Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT), Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE: HPQ), Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (NASDAQ: MRVL), Newmont Mining Corp. (NYSE: NEM) and American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG) expected to announce their quarterly results Thursday.
U.S. stock markets plunged Wednesday as sentiment was dampened after minutes from Federal Reserve's policy meet showed uncertainty on the current monetary stimulus program. Several members expressed concerns about potential costs and risks rising from further asset purchases and a number of them stated that the central bank might have to slow or halt asset-buying program before substantial improvement in the outlook for the labor market.
European stock markets were trading lower with the DAX30 down 0.62 percent, the CAC 40 down 1.02 percent and the FTSE 100 losing 0.61 percent.
Asian stock markets slumped Thursday as sentiment turned negative after Fed minutes showed growing uncertainties on how long QE3 will last and on news that Chinese government has ordered regional authorities to take up stringent measures to limit property speculation and control the sector.
Japan’s Nikkei plunged 1.39 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slumped 1.72 percent and the Chinese Shanghai Composite tumbled 2.97 percent while India’s BSE Sensex declined 1.19 percent and South Korea’s KOSPI Composite fell 0.47 percent.