U.S. stock index futures pointed to a lower open on Wall Street on Thursday, on rekindled fears over the global economic outlook and the stability of the financial system.

Freddie Mac , one of the two main U.S. mortgage companies that the U.S. government is depending on to help stabilize the housing market, said on Wednesday it needs $30.8 billion from the Treasury to survive, after reporting a net loss of $23.9 billion, nearly 10 times that of a year ago.

China, the engine of world economic growth in recent years, saw industrial output growth shrink to a record low at the start of the year, but a continued surge in bank lending in February spurred optimism the economy could rebound soon.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick said the global economy may shrink 1-2 percent this year, while revised Japanese data confirmed the world's No. 2 economy suffered its deepest slump since the oil shock of 1974.

Investors will keep an eye on the U.S. House Financial Services Committee hearing on mark-to-market accounting rules, which have been blamed for forcing banks to report billions of dollars in write-downs.

On the macro front, the market will focus on monthly retail sales, as well as weekly jobless claims.

Roche Holding AG has struck a deal with Genentech Inc to acquire all outstanding shares in the U.S. biotech group for $46.8 billion, or $95 a share, the Swiss drugmaker said on Thursday.

Nortel Networks Corp is in talks to sell its two main businesses to rivals, a sign the firm could break itself apart rather than emerge from bankruptcy as planned.

U.S. stocks rose for a second day on Wednesday after JP Morgan Chase's chief executive said his bank was profitable in January and February, echoing comments by Citigroup's CEO a day earlier.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 3.91 points, or 0.06 percent, to 6,930.40. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> added 1.76 points, or 0.24 percent, to 721.36. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> rose 13.36 points, or 0.98 percent, to 1,371.64.

(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; editing by Simon Jessop)