- U.S. stock futures pointed to a lower open on Thursday, as global equities were hit by news the Federal Reserve could raise its rates as soon as next year, while markets eyed the release of U.S. economic reports later in the day.

Ahead of the open, the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.17% fall, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.17% loss, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.18% decline.

At the conclusion of its two-day policy setting meeting on Wednesday, the Fed said it would reduce its monthly bond purchases by an additional $10 billion to $55 billion.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen indicated that the bank could begin to raise interest rates about six months after the bond-buying program winds up, which is expected to happen this fall.

The Fed statement also emphasized that economic conditions could mean that rates would remain on hold at record lows for some time, even after inflation and employment return to their longer-run trends.

The central bank also updated its forward guidance, discarding the 6.5% unemployment threshold for considering when to increase borrowing costs and said it will look at a wide range of information.

Internet-related stocks were expected to be in focus, after activist investor Carl Icahn announced that he is backing away from his proposal to separate EBay Inc. from its PayPal payments unit.

Separately, Yahoo! Inc. Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer was reporedly preparing to pare the company''s stake in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. The move could weigh on the U.S. Web portal’s investor appeal. Yahoo shares slipped 0.26% in pre-market trade.

Elsewhere, JPMorgan Chase was up 0.15% in early trading after saying on Wednesday that it will sell its physical commodities business to Swiss trade house Mercuria for approximately $3.5 billion.

The auto sector was also expected to be active, with Toyota rising 0.29% in extended trading after the company said it reached a $1.2 billion settlement with the Justice Department over its sudden acceleration problems.

Other stocks likely to be in focus included Nike, scheduled to report quarterly earnings later in the day.

Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were sharply lower. The EURO STOXX 50 tumbled 1.11%, France’s CAC 40 retreated 0.92%, Germany''s DAX plummeted 1.17%, while Britain''s FTSE 100 declined 1.17%.

During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong''s Hang Seng Index plummeted 1.79%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index lost 1.65%.

Later in the day, the U.S. was to publish the weekly report on initial jobless claims, as well as data on existing home sales and manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region.

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