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Premarket: Futures flat after ‘stale’ Fed minutes

U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Thursday, a day after minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting indicated a willingness among Fed officials to take measures soon to stimulate the economy.

However, non-voting Federal Open Market Committee 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."

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. Data at 8:58 a.m. ET is expected to show that growth in the U.S. factory sector slowed slightly in August.

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The data adds to expectations that central banks, including the Fed, 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.

S&P 500 futures fell 1 point and were flat 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 rose 18 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 2 pointsAlso on the U.S. data calendar, first-time claims for weekly unemployment insurance are due at 8:30 a.m. Economists forecast a total of 365,000 new filings, compared with 366,000 in the prior week.

The Commerce Department releases new home sales for July at 10:00 a.m. Economists forecast a total of 365,000 annualized units, compared with 350,000 in June.

Hewlett-Packard shares fell 4.1 per cent in premarket trading after the company posted an $8.9-billion quarterly loss as personal computer sales shrank again, and the company reported a write-down linked to its $13.9-billion purchase of Electronic Data Systems Corp.

Big Lots shares slid 19.9 per cent in premarket trading after the retailer reported a lower-than-expected quarterly profit and cut its full-year adjusted earnings forecast.

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