The U.S. stock index futures point to a lower open Thursday as investor concerns about the faltering global economic growth were revived following Japan’s increasing trade deficit and the disappointing manufacturing activity of China.

 

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 0.35 percent, futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 index were down 0.41 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 index were down 0.37 percent.

 

Market sentiment turned negative as Japan reported Thursday a rise in trade deficit in August compared to the previous month with a decrease in both exports and imports. The Finance Ministry data showed that the country recorded 754.1 billion yen ($9.62 billion) trade deficit in August, up from 517.4 billion yen deficit in July.

 

Market confidence was weighed down after the preliminary HSBC Flash Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) released Thursday showed that China's manufacturing activity continued to contract in September. The preliminary reading of the PMI, a measure of the nationwide manufacturing activity, rose to 47.8 in September compared to 47.6 in August. When the PMI is below 50.0, it indicates that the manufacturing economy is declining.

 

Investors are likely to focus on the Labor Department's 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 fall to 375,000 in the week ending Sept. 15, down from 382,000 in the previous week.

 

On Wednesday, the U.S. markets gained marginally as investors continued to maintain cautious mode to find where the economy is heading following the announcement of the quantitative easing measures by the Federal Reserve. According to data released by the National Association of Realtors Wednesday, the existing home sales rose to 4.82 million units in August, up from 4.47 million units in July.

 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.10 percent, the S&P 500 Index was up 0.12 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.15 percent.

 

Major European markets fell Thursday as investor optimism about the stimulus measures announced earlier this month by the policymakers in the euro zone began to fade. London's FTSE 100 was down 40.22 points, Germany's DAX 30 index declined 68.01 points and France's CAC 40 fell 35.81 points.

 

Asian stocks also fell Thursday as the market players were worried that the economies of China and Japan continued to weaken and growth momentum persisted to falter.