Stock index futures pointed to a steep fall at the open on Monday as global equities sold off after data from Japan showed that while the world's No. 2 economy returned to growth, a recovery may be shaky.

A much better-than-expected survey of U.S. regional manufacturing did little to cheer stock investors, concerned that the rally since early March has been overdone. The New York Fed's survey of regional manufacturing came in at 12.08 in August, above the 3.00 consensus, and showed a return to growth in the sector for the first time since April 2008.

Futures slightly pared losses after the data but still pointed to a deep pullback at the open.

Although Japan's data showed its economy pulled out of its worst recession for 60 years and growth was in line with forecasts, economists were wary about the outlook for next year as exports, the biggest contributor to April-June growth, may slow as the effect of stimulus measures wears off.

The number was in line with expectations, said Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald & Co in San Francisco, referring to the Japanese growth data. It's just the market wants to see everything beat. Just meeting your targets is not good enough -- not when you've already bought the market up as much as you have.

S&P 500 futures slid 20.40 points, and below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures tumbled 161 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures were down 26.00 points.

The S&P 500 index has rallied around 50 percent since hitting a closing low on March 9, with the latest leg from early July coming as a response to better-than-expected U.S. corporate earnings. The run-up has led many investors to expect a pullback.

(Reporting by Edward Krudy; editing by Padraic Cassidy)