NEW YORK -
Stocks were set to slip at the open on Thursday as expectations for swift action in support of the economy were lowered and overseas data pointed to stalling global growth.
Minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting indicated the central bank might be ready for another round of stimulus, giving equities support on Wednesday.
However, Federal Open Market Committee non-voting member and St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said on CNBC that U.S. data has been somewhat better since the latest Fed meeting and the minutes were "a bit stale."
U.S. manufacturing improved slightly in August but hiring in the sector slowed and weak overseas demand for American goods kept the pace of overall growth subdued.
"Overall, this is in line with sort of the recent economic data that we have seen, which saw slight but improving economic conditions," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer at Solaris Asset Management in Bedford Hills, New York.
Despite a tick up in jobless claims applications in the latest week, the data seem to indicate the economy is not slowing at a fast-enough pace to warrant action from the Fed.
S&P 500 futures fell 3.1 points and were below in terms of fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 28 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 8 points.
Various purchasing managers' index surveys suggested the euro zone is firmly in recession and China's manufacturing sector is contracting at a faster pace than earlier believed.
The data adds to expectations that central banks, including the ECB and the People's Bank of China will act in support of stalling economies around the globe.
"Weaker PMI's certainly point to more aggressive monetary policy in both regions," said Art Hogan, managing director of Lazard Capital Markets in New York, about the euro zone and China.
Hogan said that the overseas data doesn't force the Fed's hand and pointed to Bullard's comments and the fact that U.S. data has been better on many fronts to indicate the U.S. equities market will probably drift until the end of the month.
Also on the U.S. data calendar, the Commerce Department releases new home sales for July at 10:00 a.m. (1400 GMT). Economists forecast a total of 365,000 annualized units, compared with 350,000 in June.
(Additional reporting by Angela Moon, editing by Dave Zimmerman)