Stock index futures pointed to a lower opening on Wall Street on Thursday, with futures for the S&P 500 down 0.6 percent, Dow Jones futures down 0.57 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures down 0.58 percent at 1000 GMT.
Germany's manufacturing sector shrank for the first time this year in March on the back of falling new orders, raising concern over its resilience to the euro zone crisis, and sending European share prices down more than 1 percent in morning trade.
The euro zone's economy took an unexpected turn for the worse in March, hit by a sharp fall in French and German factory activity that even the most pessimistic economists failed to predict, business surveys showed on Thursday.
The purchasing managers indexes (PMIs), which capture how thousands of companies have fared over the month, effectively quashed any lingering hopes that the euro zone might avoid falling into a new recession.
China's economic momentum also slowed in March as factory activity shrank for a fifth straight month, leaving investors fretting about the risks to global growth and anticipating fresh policy support from Beijing.
The HSBC flash purchasing managers index, the earliest indicator of China's industrial activity, fell back to 48.1 from February's four-month high of 49.6. New orders sank to a four-month low, an expected rebound in export orders failed to emerge and new hiring slumped to a two-year low.
Investors awaited U.S. weekly jobless claims, due at 1230 GMT, the home price index, due at 1400 GMT, as well as leading indicators, also due at 1400 GMT.
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A Brazilian federal prosecutor filed criminal charges on Wednesday against Chevron
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Diamond Foods Inc
Raymond James Financial Inc
Japan's NEC Corp <6701.T> said on Thursday it would buy U.S. telecoms firm Convergys Corp's
U.S. stocks mostly fell on Wednesday, weighed by the energy services sector, but gains in technology shares buoyed the Nasdaq and helped keep the S&P 500 near four-year highs.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> fell 45.57 points, or 0.35 percent, to 13,124.62 at the close. The S&P 500 Index <.INX> dipped 2.63 points, or 0.19 percent, to 1,402.89. The Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> edged up 1.17 points, or 0.04 percent, to 3,075.32.
(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Greg Mahlich)