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US futures lower after data, Fed minutes

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U.S. stock index futures indicated a slightly lower open on Thursday as traders digested economic data and continued the minutes of the last Fed meeting.

The July minutes released Wednesday afternoon showed a divided Fed, worried about inflation and split over the strength of the economy. That now makes December its best and probably only chance for a rate hike this year, strategists said.

On the data front, weekly jobless claims fell 4,000 to 262,000, while the August Philadelphia Fed business index came in line with expectations. Leading indicators are set to be released at 10 a.m.

Fed speakers on Thursday include San Francisco Fed President John Williams, Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan, and New York Fed President William Dudley.

On the earnings front, Wal-Mart reported better-than-expected profits and raised its guidance. Hormel Foods also posted quarterly results that were above expectations. Applied Materials and Gap are among companies set to report after the bell.

In oil markets, Brent crude traded at $49.76 a barrel on Thursday, down 0.18 percent, while U.S. crude was at $47.05 a barrel, up 0.56 percent.

In Europe, the pan European Stoxx 600 Index was up by around 0.42 percent. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei closed 1.55 percent lower on Thursday, while in China the Shanghai Composite closed 0.17 percent lower.

— CNBC's Patti Domm contributed to this report