U.S. stock index futures indicated a sharply lower open on Thursday, with Dow futures down as much as 160 points, as oil prices extended losses and investors digested Wednesday's Fed minutes and more volatility in Chinese markets.
Wednesday's Fed minutes left the markets wanting, with enough nuance to keep Wall Street divided over whether the first rate hike comes in September or later.
That means the scrutiny of each piece of data, and particularly job-related or inflation data, will be intense.
Initial claims data came in at 277,000, but remained consistent with an improving labor market trend that could support a rate hike this year.
The U.S. 2-year Treasury note yield near 0.66 percent, while the 10-year yield trimmed losses to trade near 2.11 percent.
The U.S. dollar traded slightly lower against major world currencies, with the euro above $1.11.
Existing home sales, the Philadelphia Fed survey and leading indicators are all released at 10 a.m. ET.
Read MoreFed watch: The great debate rages on
The Philly Fed survey will be key, after the Empire State survey earlier in the week plunged to a 2009 low.