U.S. stock index futures eased off their worst levels Wednesday, but gains were limited following some weak economic reports from Europe and ahead of the European Central Bank meeting later this week.
European shares traded lower, with investors cautious ahead of Thursday’s ECB meeting at which bank president Mario Draghi is expected to announce a bond-buying program to help countries such as Spain and Italy lower their borrowing costs.
Futures got a brief boost from earlier reports that the ECB would introduce an unlimited, sterilized program of bond purchases. But the central bank declined comment on the report. (Read More: Fed Watching ECB Just as Closely as Markets Are)
Meanwhile, a survey showed that the euro zone is likely to have slipped back into recessionin the current quarter, with Germany's composite PMI indicating the lowest reading since June 2009.
On the economic front, productivity increased at a much faster ratethan previously thought in the second quarter, rising at a 2.2 percent annual rate, according to the Labor Department. Economists had expected a reading of 1.8 percent.
On Tuesday, data from the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) showed U.S. manufacturing contracted at its fastest rate in three years in August, while July data from the Commerce Department showed the steepest decline in construction spending in a year.