U.S. stock index futures dipped on Thursday ahead of leading indicator and jobless data and a slew of big corporate earnings reports, including American Express, Amazon.com, Dow Chemical and Merck.

China's economic growth picked up last quarter as expected, but the growth rate fell short of more optimistic forecasts.

Travelers Cos Inc , the largest U.S. publicly traded property-casualty insurer, said profit jumped fourfold and approved a new $6 billion share buyback plan.

The Labor Department is to release first-time claims for jobless benefits at 8:30 a.m. EDT. Economists forecast 515,000 in new filings versus 514,000 in the prior week.

The Conference Board is to report on leading economic indicators for September at 10 a.m. Economists look for a 0.8 percent rise compared with a 0.6 percent increase in August.

The market has risen a bit from the low, and it can't be supported on just these earnings surprises, said Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in New York.

It really needs revenue growth and not just cost cutting, and for that you need better economic conditions.

S&P 500 futures fell 2.3 points and were 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 lost 18 points, and Nasdaq futures slid 4.50 points.

Other key companies to report include American Express Co , Amazon.com Inc , AT&T Inc, 3M Co , McDonald's Corp , Dow Chemical Co , Merck & Co Inc and Xerox Corp .

Microsoft Corp launched its Windows 7 software on Thursday in its most important release in more than a decade. It hopes to win back customers after its disappointing Vista software in hopes of strengthening the grip on the personal computer market. The stock added 0.5 percent to $26.70 in premarket trade.

European stocks were broadly lower early Thursday, with Ericsson's poor results hitting technology shares.

Asian shares also fell amid disappointment over the China economic data, but the dollar gained some respite as an expected shift to higher-yielding currencies failed to materialize.

U.S. stocks fell Wednesday, hurt by a late sell-off in financial issues after an influential bank analyst recommended unloading Wells Fargo & Co shares. A wider-than-expected loss from Boeing Co also disappointed investors.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dropped 92.12 points, or 0.92 percent, to end at 9,949.36. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> lost 9.66 points, or 0.89 percent, to 1,081.40. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> shed 12.74 points, or 0.59 percent, to 2,150.73.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)