Investing.com - U.S. stock futures pointed to a lower open on Thursday, ahead of the release of U.S. data later in the day, as comments by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke weighed heavily on risk sentiment.
Ahead of the open, the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.70% drop, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.85% decline, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.97% slump.
Stocks came under pressure after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the bank could begin slowing asset purchases by the end of 2013 and wind them down completely by the middle of 2014 if the economy picks up as the central bank expects.
Sentiment was also hit after data earlier showed that China’s HSBC preliminary manufacturing purchasing managers’ index fell to a nine month low of 48.3 in June from 49.2 in May as new orders fell, indicating that the slowdown in manufacturing is worsening.
Tech stocks were expected to be active, amid reports Microsoft had planned to acquire Finland's Nokia, but talks broke down, sending the tech giants shares down 0.98% in pre-market trade.
Separately, Microsoft announced a major change to its Xbox One late Wednesday, saying it will no longer require an internet connection to play offline games.
Internet-related companies were also likely to be in focus, as Facebook was preparing to host a press event at its headquarters on Thursday. The social network giant was widely expected to announce a video function for its photo-sharing app, Instagram.
Elsewhere, Men’s Wearhouse slipped 0.24% in extended trading, after the company ousted its founder and exectutive chairman George Zimmer following repeated clashes over strategy with Chief Executive Officer, Douglas Ewert.
Adding to losses, Jabil Circuit plummeted 3.58% after hours, as it reported a steep drop in quarterly profits after the close of the U.S. trading session on Wednesday.
Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were sharply lower. The EURO STOXX 50 plunged 2.48%, France’s CAC 40 plummeted 2.33%, Germany's DAX retreated 2.36%, while Britain's FTSE 100 tumbled 2.26%.
During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index sank 2.88%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index tumbled 1.74%.
Later in the day, the U.S. was to release the weekly government report on initial jobless claims, in addition to data on existing home sales and the Philly Fed manufacturing index.