NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks were headed for a sharply lower open Thursday, tracking steep declines in world markets, as nervous investors worried about the global economy following the Federal Reserve's gloomy outlook.
Adding further pressure in the early going was a report showing a greater number of people filed for unemployment benefits in the latest week.
Dow Jones industrial average (), S&P 500 ( ) and Nasdaq ( ) futures were down about 2% ahead of the opening bell. Stock futures indicate the possible direction of the markets when they open at 9:30 a.m. ET.
U.S. stocks ended sharply lower Wednesday, after the Fed said it will shift $400 billion from short-term Treasuries into long-term Treasuries in an effort to boost lending and spur the economy.
Though the so-called Operation Twist was what investors had been anticipating, meeting expectations with the bare minimum came up short of pleasing them.
"These measures can't make the economy worse, but neither, we think, will they make things much better," said High Frequency Economics chief U.S. economist Ian Shepherdson in a note to clients.
As investors fled the global stock markets, they rushed for safer havens, driving up the price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury. That pushed the yield down to fresh record low below 1.762% from 1.88% late Wednesday.
The Fed's latest assessment of the economy also spooked investors. Though the central bank has been warning of slower growth for months, its signal of "significant downside risks to the economic outlook, including strains in global financial markets" added to the pessimistic forecast.
A preliminary reading on China's manufacturing activity fell in September, according to HSBC's survey, renewing concerns of a sudden slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.
A separate report showed that manufacturing in the eurozone contracted for the first time in over two years, according to London-based Markit Economics.
The reading "provides the strongest sign yet that the region is on the cusp of recession," said Capital Economics European economist Ben May in a research note.
World markets: European stocks were deep in the red in morning trading. Britain's FTSE 100 ( ) sank 4.5%, while France's CAC 40 ( ) fell 4.7% and the DAX ( ) in Germany dropped 4.3%.
Asian markets also took a tumble. The Shanghai Composite () finished 2.8% lower, the Hang Seng ( ) in Hong Kong plunged 4.9% and Japan's Nikkei ( ) fell 2.1%.
Economy: The Labor Department issued its weekly jobless claims data ahead of the opening bell.
Weekly jobless claims were higher than expected, coming at 423,000 compared to economists' expectations of 417,000 claims last week.
After trading begins, Federal Housing Finance Agency will release its home price index for July.
The Conference Board's index of leading economic indicators is also due in the morning. The index is expected to have risen 0.1% in August after having climbed 0.5% in July, according to a consensus of economists surveyed by Briefing.com.
Shares of Hewlett-Packard (Fortune 500) fell 2.5% in premarket trading as investors anticipate a management shakeup. HP's shares soared almost 7% Wednesday on news that the company's board is considering replacing current CEO Leo Apotheker after barely a year on the job with former eBay boss Meg Whitman.,
Investors will keep a close eye on financial stocks after Moody's Investors Services announced the downgrade of Citigroup ( , Fortune 500), Wells Fargo ( , Fortune 500), and Bank of America ( , Fortune 500) Wednesday afternoon.
Shares of U.S. bank stocks were taking an early beating, with JPMorgan Chase (Fortune 500) and Goldman Sachs ( , Fortune 500) down 2.3% and 2.7% in premarket trading. Wells Fargo and Bank of America ( , Fortune 500) sunk 2.5% and 2.8%, while shares of Citigroup tumbled 4%.,
FedEx (Fortune 500) shares were down roughly 0.5% after the company lowered its guidance when it reported quarterly results Thursday. The company cited the slowing global economy and higher fuel prices.,
Nike (Fortune 500) will report results after the close.,
Oil for November delivery slipped $4.28 to $81.55 a barrel.
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