Stocks to Fall on Global Growth Concerns

hcsp.jpgU.S. stocks were heading for a lower open Thursday, following world markets after China and Germany reported soft manufacturing data for March.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures were lower ahead of the opening bell. Stock futures indicate the possible direction of the markets when they open at 9:30 a.m. ET.
Investors head into Thursday looking for further signs of strength in the U.S. economy, and a reason to reverse two straight days of losses.
Global markets put a damper on any optimism after a Chinese manufacturing index compiled by HSBC hit a four-month low in March. The new reading came in at 48.1, down from 49.6 in February.
A reading below 50 indicates the sector is contracting, and HSBC said that a significant drop in new orders acted as the primary drag on manufacturing. Reflecting a broader slowdown, China lowered its growth target and hiked gasoline prices in recent weeks.
A reading on manufacturing activity in Germany showed the eurozone stalwart hit a soft patch in March, as the sector registered only a marginal expansion.
Corporate earnings will also be in focus on Thursday, with firms including FedEx (FDX, Fortune 500), Dollar General (DG, Fortune 500) and food producer ConAgra (CAG, Fortune 500) on tap to report quarterly results. FedEx in particular is often seen as a proxy for the health of the wider economy due to the nature of its business.
Weekly data on initial jobless claims are also due, as is the FHFA Housing Price Index and the Conference Board’s Leading Indicators Index, which is a combination of economic readings.
Source: CNN Money