The Labor Department has reported Thursday that the number of people applying for unemployment benefits for the first time rose last week. The gain was small at 2,000, but economists had expected the number to drop.
Meanwhile, Cisco Systems Inc. has added to investors' anxiety by reporting revenue figures that fell short of forecasts.
The market's view of the economy keeps growing darker after the Federal Reserve lowered its assessment of the recovery on Tuesday. Stocks dropped sharply Wednesday and sent the Dow Jones industrial average down 265 points.
Stock index futures are down less than an hour before the start of trading. Dow futures are down 65, or 0.63 percent, at 10,272, while Standard & Poor's 500 futures are down 8.50, or 0.8 percent, at 1,072.50. Nasdaq 100 futures are down 17.50, or 1 percent, at 1,820.25.