The momentum of a late sell-off on Wall Street carried over into a second day, sending U.S. futures and global stock markets into retreat.
Uncertainty over how committed the Fed remains to a massive bond-buying program scattered investors and overshadowed a Labor Department report Thursday that was slightly better than most economists had expected.
Dow Jones industrial futures slid 125 points to 15,195. S&P futures lost 16.3 points to 1,639.30. Nasdaq futures fell 26.75 points to 2,974.25.
U.S. stocks began selling off late Wednesday when minutes from the most recent Federal Reserve policy meeting left open the possibility that the U.S. may begin easing off stimulus measures that have helped send major indexes to record highs in recent weeks.
Several Federal Reserve policymakers appear to be leaning toward easing efforts to maintain record-low long-term interest rates.
Even though those actions would not be implemented, the officials said, unless the economic recovery accelerates, it created enough uncertainty about future Fed actions to send ripples overseas as markets opened.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock index tumbled more than 7 percent Thursday, the largest single-day decline since the March 2011 tsunami disaster.
The yield on 10-year Japanese government bonds rose briefly above 1 percent, the first time that has happened in a year.
Still, the U.S. recovery appears to be on track.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell by 23,000 last week.
The less volatile four-week average ticked down 500 to 339,500. That's close to the five-year low of 338,000 registered the first week of May. The four-week average is 9 percent lower than in November.
And economists expect that the Commerce Department will report Thursday that new home sales rose again.
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