- U.S. stock futures pointed to a lower open on Thursday, as the minutes of the Federal Reserve''s latest policy meeting slightly weighed and as investors eyed the release of upcoming U.S. economic reports.

Ahead of the open, the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.12% fall, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.17% loss, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.24% decline.

On Wednesday, the minutes of the Fed''s January meeting indicated that that the current pace of its decrease in bond purchases would remain unchanged, so long as the economy shows signs of improvement.

Separately, market sentiment weakened after data showed that the preliminary reading of China’s HSBC manufacturing index fell to a seven month low of 48.3 this month, down from 49.5 in January, remaining below the 50 level that separates expansion from contraction for a second month.

Actavis was expected to be active after the generic drugmaker announced that it was buying rival Forest Laboratories for around USD25 billion earlier this week and was set to report quarterly earnings later in the day. Shares jumped 1.16% in pre-market trade.

Facebook was also likely to be in focus, after the announcement of its $16 billion acquisition of mobile messaging firm WhatsApp. The purchase is Facebook''s largest yet. Shares in the social media giant were down 2.28% in early trading.

In the financial sector, Bank of America was up 0.68% pre-market amid reports the U.S. lender awarded Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan $14 million for last year, increasing his pay by 17% after profit more than doubled.

Elsewhere, Twenty-First Century Fox''s television network won a court order halting Barry Diller-backed Aereo''s online-TV service in Utah, while the U.S. Supreme Court weighs whether it infringes broadcasters’ copyrights.

Other stocks likely to be in focus included Wal-Mart, DirecTV, Imax, Hewlett Packard, Groupon and Nordstrom, all scheduled to report quarterly results later in the day.

Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were lower. The EURO STOXX 50 dropped 0.74%, France’s CAC 40 retreated 0.44%, Germany''s DAX lost 1.18%, while Britain''s FTSE 100 shed 0.30%.

During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong''s Hang Seng Index tumbled 1.19%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index plunged 2.15%.

Later in the day, the U.S. was to release the weekly report on initial jobless claims and data on consumer price inflation, as well as a report on manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region.

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