(By Balachander) U.S. stock index futures pointed to a lower open on the Wall Street as investors weighed minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting and surprise rise in jobless claims.
Mini Dow Industrial Average futures dipped 28 points to 13,128. The Nasdaq futures shed 8.50 points to 2,772.75. Standard and Poor's 500 futures slipped 4.40 points to 1,407.90.
Many central-bank officials favored another round of stimulus, the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee's July 31-August 1 policy-setting committee meeting showed. "Many members judged that additional monetary accommodation would likely be warranted fairly soon unless incoming information pointed to a substantial and sustainable strengthening in the pace of the economic recovery."
On the U.S. economic front, the number of Americans who continued to receive jobless benefits unexpectedly rose last week to a one-month high, a government data showed. Jobless claims increased 4,000 to 372,000 for the week ended August 18 from a revised 368,000, while economists projected 365,000 applications.
A report from the Commerce Department at 10 a.m. ET may show that new home sales were 365,000 in July, versus 350,000 in June.
In global news, separate reports showed contraction in eurozone private sector activity and China's manufacturing sector.
On Wednesday, U.S. stocks erased losses and closed on a mixed note after the Fed minutes. The stocks were in the red for most of yesterday's session as investors digested weak trade data from Japan and the upcoming meetings between Greek and European officials.
Hot Stocks Of The Day:HPQ, BIG, GES, PDCO, HRL, HAIN, IRF, SMTC
In corporate news, Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE:HPQ) retreated 4.22 percent in premarket after the world's largest seller of personal computers posted a quarterly loss amid weaker-than-forecast revenue. HPQ also revised its full-year earnings forecast.
Big Lots Inc. (NYSE:BIG) sank 17.20 percent in premarket after the broadline closeout retailer lowered fiscal 2012 earnings guidance following a 38.1 percent drop in second-quarter earnings on higher expenses.
Guess? Inc. (NYSE:GES) tumbled 16.37 percent after the apparel company reduced fiscal 2013 outlook and guided third quarter below Wall Street view. It reported a 45.2 percent drop in quarterly earnings, trailing market expectations, due to lower store traffic.
Patterson Companies Inc. (NASDAQ:PDCO) slumped 9.94 percent in premarket after the supplier of dental and veterinary products reported lower quarterly earnings as gross margin contraction offset growth in sales.
Hormel Foods Corp. (NYSE:HRL) added 2.71 percent after the Austin, Minnesota-based company reported a 12 percent rise in quarterly earnings, helped by sales gains at four of its five segments, and the company backed its forecast for the year. Quarterly results were in line with market expectations.
Hain Celestial Group Inc. (NASDAQ:HAIN) jumped 11.93 percent in premarket after natural and organic food company posted a jump in quarterly earnings and issued an upbeat full-year forecast. The company also agreed to acquire Premier Foods Plc's (PFD) portfolio of packaged grocery brands to boost its presence in the U.K.
International Rectifier Corp. (NYSE:IRF) may be in focus after the maker of power management semiconductors posted a fourth quarter loss and announced a restructuring plan. It also offered a downbeat revenue forecast for the first quarter.
Semtech Corp. (NASDAQ:SMTC) posted a sharp fall in second-quarter profit amid margin pressure and the supplier of analog and mixed-signal semiconductor products guided third-quarter below market expectations.
European markets traded mixed, with Germany's DAX declining 0.51 percent to trade at 6,981.86. France's CAC40 fell 0.73 percent to 3,436.55. U.K.'s FTSE 100 inched up 0.12 percent to trade at 5,781.14.
Among Asian markets, China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index inched up 0.25 percent to finish at 2,113.07. Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.51 percent to end at 9,178.12. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advanced 1.23 percent to end at 20,132.24. India's BSE Sensex closed at 17,850.22, up 0.02 percent.
Ahead of the opening bell, crude oil futures rose 0.30 percent to $97.55 per barrel. Gold futures gained 1.52 percent to $1,665.4 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro added 0.17 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.2550 while the British pound shed 0.08 percent to 1.5868. The dollar advanced 0.09 percent against the Japanese yen to 78.6500.