U.S. Futures Extend Europe's Slump

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Taking a cue from Europe, U.S. stock-index futures fell sharply on Thursday as market participants grew frustrated over the Fed's lack of willingness to take bolder short-term action to bolster the sagging American economy.

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Today's Markets

As of 8:35 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 72 points to 12461, S&P 500 futures dipped 9.3 points to 1327 and Nasdaq 100 futures slumped 15.3 points to 2546.

Wall Street has found itself on a five-day losing streak as traders grapple with data pointing to a weakening in most of the world's biggest economies. In minutes released on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve said an outright contraction in Europe and dramatic cooling China, coupled with continued fiscal uncertainty, poses a substantial risk to the U.S. economy.

However, officials on the Fed's policy-setting board still remain sharply divided on whether more powerful easing measures are necessary. Right now, the central bank is lengthening the maturity of its balance sheet without adding to it.

"Disappointment has set in as the world's most powerful central bank still seems unwilling to provide another sugar rush of cheap money," Chris Beauchamp, a market analyst at IG Index in London wrote in an e-mail.

In a sign of the more subdued expectations, embattled U.K. bank Barclays said in a note to clients on Thursday that it is slicing its forecast for second-quarter economic growth to 1.5% from 2.5%.

A round of considerably better-than-expected data on the jobs market failed to whet Wall Street's buying appetite. New claims for unemployment benefits fell to 350,000 last week from an upwardly revised 376,000 the week prior, according to the Labor Department. That is the lowest level since March 2008. Claims were expected to fall to 372,000 from an initially reported 374,000.

A separate report from Labor showed U.S. import prices fell 2.7% in June, the biggest drop since December 2008 and a sharper decline than the 1.7% expected, as petroleum import prices fell 10.5%. June export prices fell 1.7%, more than the 0.3% decline expected.

Oil futures fell after posting the best daily performance in more than a week on Wednesday. The benchmark contract traded in New York dropped $1.19, or 1.4%, to $84.62 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline fell 0.87% to $2.745 a gallon.

In metals, gold dipped $11.70, or 0.74%, to 1,564 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 slipped 0.86% to 2227, the English FTSE 100 sold off by 1.1% to 5603 and the German DAX dropped 1% to 6389.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 slumped 1.5% to 8720 and the Chinese Hang Seng tumbled 2% to 19025.