Stock futures fell on Thursday in the wake of weaker-than-expected growth data from Europe and Japan and a disappointing outlook from technology bellwether Cisco Systems .
Though weakness in Europe has persisted over recent quarters, underwhelming economic growth data from the region and from Japan, which could impact global growth and U.S. corporate profits, may spur profit-taking in U.S. equities.
The French and German economies shrank more than expected in the fourth quarter of 2012, and a 0.6 percent contraction in the euro zone was the steepest for the bloc since the first quarter of 2009.
Japan's GDP shrank 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter, crushing expectations of a modest return to growth and adding weight to the new government's push for radical policy steps to revive growth.
The S&P 500 is up 6.6 percent so far this year, though a dearth of fresh incentives has kept trading thin over the past few sessions.
"We've had a real absence of news in the marketplace and any bit of information that suggests the recovery is not underway is probably being given more significance that it might have," said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.
He said that following a mild climb on the S&P 500, traders were "cashing in a little bit."
Shrinking European economies translated to a 5-percent drop in revenue from the region for Cisco Systems, which reported its results Wednesday. The company's shares fell 1.6 percent in premarket trading.
S&P 500 futures fell 4 points and were below 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 62 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 11 points.
H.J. Heinz Co shares jumped 20 percent in premarket trading after it said that Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital will buy the company for $72.50 a share, or $28 billion including debt.
American Airlines and US Airways Group said they plan to merge in a deal that will form the world's biggest air carrier, with an equity valuation of about $11 billion. US Airways shares rose 1.3 percent in premarket trading.
Nvidia shares fell 1.5 percent in premarket trading after the chip maker's revenue outlook missed expectations on Wednesday, pointing to a slowing PC industry and slower production of tablets using its chips.
On the other hand, shares of the world's largest chip gear maker Applied Materials rose Wednesday after the closing bell following a better-than-expected earnings report and outlook.
Best Buy shares fell 2.8 percent in premarket trading; sources said on Wednesday the electronics retailer's founder may scrap a buyout bid and instead line up investors to take a minority position.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)