By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures were mildly lower Thursday as rising jobless claims and disappointing Chinese manufacturing data reinforced fears about the economy, with U.S. manufacturing data still on tap.
Stock indexes added to their declines immediately after the government reported first-time jobless claims climbed 13,000 to 472,000 last week, prompting worry ahead of Friday's monthly jobs report.
But stock futures reconsidered their fall and pulled back to only small losses ahead of the opening bell.
S&P 500 futures fell 2.3 points to 1,024.40 and Nasdaq 100 futures declined 4.25 points to 1,733.75.
Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 18 points.
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U.S. stocks Wednesday finished a disappointing quarter with a disappointing session, hurt by worries about domestic job growth as well as European credit jitters following a weaker-than-forecast private sector employment report from ADP and a Moody's warning on Spain. The S&P 500 dropped 11.9% in the second quarter, the worst quarterly performance since the fourth quarter of 2008.
The June Institute for Supply Management manufacturing index and May pending home sales data are due for release later Thursday. Automakers including Ford /quotes/comstock/13*!f/quotes/nls/f (F 10.34, +0.26, +2.58%) will be releasing June sales throughout the day.
Philip Isherwood, a strategist at U.K. broker Evolution Securities, said equity markets already discount a poor ISM reading, and a drop below 50 for ISM new orders. The ISM data is due at 10 a.m. Eastern. Economists polled by MarketWatch expect the headline reading to fall to 59.0% from 59.7%.
"Given the poor and fragile sentiment at present, it is perfectly possible that the market will react negatively to any drop in the ISM New Orders series - but this looks like a case of confirmation, and also double-counting," he said in a note to clients.
Chinese manufacturing data released Thursday dropped in June, indicating slowing growth to stoke further fears about the world's number-three economy.
However, the Bank of Japan's quarterly tankan survey of business sentiment showed large manufacturer sentiment turned positive for the first time in two years.
Also overseas, a Spanish bond auction of 3.5 billion euros of five-year notes went smoothly just hours after the warning from Moody's.
Yahoo /quotes/comstock/15*!yhoo/quotes/nls/yhoo (YHOO 13.97, +0.13, +0.94%) may be active after the online search provider said its board may buy back up to $3 billion of shares.
Smith & Wesson /quotes/comstock/15*!swhc/quotes/nls/swhc (SWHC 4.26, +0.17, +4.16%) rose 6.4% as the gun maker reported a 64% profit drop but also said current year sales may top analyst projections. Its stock was helped earlier in the week by a U.S. Supreme Court decision saying the right to bear arms is a fundamental right.
Arena Pharmaceuticals /quotes/comstock/15*!arna/quotes/nls/arna (ARNA 3.47, +0.40, +13.03%) jumped 17% on the licensing of a weight-loss drug.
In early afternoon trade, the Stoxx Europe 600 slid 1.1%, and in Asia, the Nikkei 225 dropped 2% to finish at its worst level since late November.
Crude oil futures slumped nearly $1 a barrel, and gold futures dropped $6 an ounce.
The euro /quotes/comstock/21o!x:seurusd (CUR_EURUSD 1.2418, +0.0185, +1.5123%) climbed 1.3% to $1.2388, helped by the Spanish auction.
Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch's London bureau chief.