US futures falling on slower China growth


WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. stock futures slid Thursday on continued signs of a weakening economy in China and disappointing indicators from some crucial sectors in Europe.

The Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 51 points to 13,015 and Standard & Poor's 500 futures fell 6.8 points to 1,390.70. Nasdaq 100 futures slipped 11.25 points to 2,724.

China has released a string of worrisome reports, the latest on Thursday, signaling that its manufacturing sector is contracting. A manufacturing index compiled by HSBC fell to 48.1 in March from 49.6 in February. Figures below 50 indicate that manufacturing is contracting.

Mainland China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.1 percent to 2,375.77

The Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo ended 0.4 percent higher at 10,127.08, however, after Japan posted its first surplus in five months in February as its auto industry recovers.

European markets were already edging down when a survey from financial information company Markit tipped most indexes into a broader retreat.

Markit's purchasing managers' index, which combines both the services and manufacturing sectors, fell to a below-forecast 48.8 points in March from 49.3 a month earlier.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares fell 1.1 percent to 5,829 while Germany's DAX fell 1.7 percent to 3,466. The CAC-40 in France was 1.7 percent lower at 3,466.

Disconcerting numbers from overseas overshadowed a fairly strong quarterly earnings report from FedEx and another encouraging report from the Labor Department.

The number of people seeking unemployment aid in the U.S. fell 5,000 to a four-year low last week, bolstering the view that the job market is strengthening, the government said.

The four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, dipped to 355,000. That's also a four-year low. When unemployment benefit applications drop consistently below 375,000, it usually signals that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

FedEx Corp., the world's second-largest package delivery company, doubled its net income for the third quarter, surprising Wall Street. Still, shares slid almost 3 percent.

The company last year lowered its expectations for the fiscal year, which ends in May, citing slowing business conditions in China.

While news out of China has been bad for stocks, it may provide some relief to consumers. Oil prices are falling, dragging down with the gasoline futures. Gasoline has risen 59 cents per gallon since Jan. 1 and the average price nationwide is above $4 in at least eight states, plus the District of Columbia.