The U.S. stock index futures point to a lower open Thursday ahead of the Labor Department's weekly jobless claims data.

The futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 0.10 percent, the futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were down 0.18 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were down 0.20 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 365,000 in the week ending Oct. 13, up from 339,000 in the previous week.

On Wednesday, the U.S. markets rose with investor sentiment turning positive as the Census Bureau’s housing starts data showed an upswing in the residential market. The data, measuring the change in the annualized number of residential buildings that began construction each month, rose to 872,000 in September, up from 758,000 in August.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average marginally rose 0.04 percent, the S&P 500 Index was up 0.41 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.10 percent.

European markets were mixed Thursday as investors were waiting for the results of the European Council summit starting in Brussels later in the day. The summit is expected to announce measures to control the debt crisis affecting the euro zone. London's FTSE 100 was up 2.47 points, Germany's DAX 30 index rose 5.46 points and France's CAC 40 fell 8.73 points.

Asian stocks gained Thursday with investor sentiment turning positive as data from China showed that the world’s second largest economy grew as expected in the third quarter, decreasing the concerns about the rapidly worsening economic conditions.

China's gross domestic product growth slowed to the lowest rate in three years to 7.4 percent in the third quarter compared to the same period last year due to the soft global demand and reduced real estate investment in the country, the official data released Thursday show.

Despite the slowdown, the numbers from China's National Bureau of Statistics could be far from the hard landing of the economy that many investors feared. Investors expect that with Chinese authorities still loosening the monetary policy, the current data may represent the trough of a cycle.