US Markets

Stock futures hold losses on drop in housing starts


U.S. stock-index futures traded lower on Thursday, as word of sanctions against Russia hit global markets.

Stock futures maintained losses after economic reports offered differing messages on the housing and labor markets, with housing starts unexpectedly falling in June while applications for jobless benefits fell last week.

Read MoreMix-match: U.S. claims and housing starts decline

Microsoft shares rose in early New York trading as the software giant said it would be cutting 18,000 jobs in the next year.

Read MoreMicrosoft plans to slash jobs

Morgan Stanley rose after the brokerage reported better-than-expected quarterly results.

Both the U.S. and the European Union announced new penalties late on Wednesday against the country for its role in destabilizing neighboring Ukraine.

Read MoreRussia sanctions hit stocks; escalation eyed

Companies sanctioned by the white House include energy giants Rosneft and Novatek, as well as two banks and eight defense firms. The sanctions will not freeze the Russian firms' assets nor prohibit most transactions with them, but will prevent them from accessing U.S. equity or debt markets for new financing with a maturity beyond 90 days.

Russian President Vladimir Putin responded by saying that relations between the U.S. and Russia were nearing a "dead end", which could damage U.S. business interests in his country, according to reports.

Read MoreUS sanctions will take relations to dead end: Putin

Sanctions: Markets have 'heard this before'

U.S. futures were also pressured lower by disappointing second-quarter earnings late on Wednesday from Yum! Brands. The operator of fast-food franchises Taco Bell and Pizza Hut posted earnings per share of 73 cents on $3.20 billion in revenue, tailing the expected 74 cents on $3.26 billion.

EBay's results were broadly in-line with forecasts, with second-quarter earnings of 69 cents on $4.37 billion in sales.

There will be numbers from Google and IBM after Wall Street closes.

In addition, General Motors will appear before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection to face questions on how it handled lawsuits involving defective ignition switches.

Read MoreGM's legal tactics in the crosshairs of Congress