Stock futures were setting up for losses on Thursday after U.S. growth in the first quarter slowed to its worst level in two years.
S&P 500 futures were down 0.62%, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 0.7%, and Nasdaq futures slid 0.34%.
The U.S. economy expanded at a rate of 0.5% in the first quarter after a respectable 1.4% rise in the fourth quarter. Consumer spending rose 1.9%, driven by growth in services, while business investment hit its worst levels since the recession. The first estimate of GDP growth was expected to come in at a stronger 0.7%. Economists anticipated factors including weaker manufacturing, a stronger U.S. dollar, softer global demand and volatile market activity would eat into U.S. GDP for the start of the year.
The number of new claims for unemployment benefits climbed 9,000 to 257,000, according to the Labor Department. The less-volatile four-week jobless claims average fell by 4,750 to 256,000.
Japan's central bank opted to leave rates as is after initiating a negative-rate policy in February. Its asset purchase target remained at 80 trillion yen for the year, while its deposit rate was held at minus 0.1%. Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda said the central bank needed more time to evaluate the effects of the change in policy.
"At this meeting, we judged that it was suitable to look more closely at the extent to which the effects of our policies are sinking in," Kuroda said.
The inaction surprised investors, most of whom had expected further stimulus from the Bank of Japan. The world's third-largest economy has suffered weakening conditions since the country's central bank last met in March.
Japan's Nikkei led global markets lower after falling 3.6% into its market close. In Europe, Germany's DAX slid 1.3%, the CAC 40 in France fell 1.3%, and the FTSE 11 in London declined 1.1%.
Facebook (FB) - Get Facebook, Inc. Class A Report added 10% in premarket trading after posting a 52% increase in first-quarter revenue. The social network boosted its top-line through video and mobile advertising. Adjusted earnings of 77 cents a share jumped from 42 cents a year earlier. Analysts expected profit of 62 cents.
"The results, simply, speak for themselves," wrote Jim Cramer and Jack Mohr of Action Alerts PLUS, which owns Facebook. "We fully embrace Facebook's continued outperformance. The ability of this management team to execute on its lofty goals is unmatched and its investments are clearly paying off.
Abbott Laboratories (ABT) - Get Abbott Laboratories Report slid 5% after agreeing to buy St. Jude Medical (STJ) in a deal worth $25 billion. Abbott offered a cash-and-stock deal equivalent to $85 a share for the medical device maker. The company expects an increase in adjusted earnings in the first full year after the deal closes. St. Jude shares rose 25.9%.
Sanofi (SNY) - Get Sanofi Sponsored ADR Report slipped after making an unsolicited offer for Medivation (MDVN) . The drugmaker offered $52.50 a share, a 50% premium to Medivation's average price in the two months before takeover reports surfaced, for a total value of $9.3 billion. Sanofi said it decided to go public after Medivation declined discussions.
Ford (F) - Get Ford Motor Company Report rose 1% in premarket trading after beating first-quarter estimates on its top- and bottom-lines. Quarterly earnings climbed to 68 cents a share from 29 cents a year earlier. Analysts had expected per-share profit of 45 cents. The automaker was profitable in all markets except South America.
First Solar (FSLR) - Get First Solar, Inc. Report fell more than 3% after quarterly sales missed forecasts. The solar company generated revenue of $848 million, around 80% higher than a year earlier but below estimates of $959 million. First Solar swung to a first-quarter profit of $1.66 a share compared to a per-share loss of 61 cents in the year-ago quarter.
Time Warner Cable (TWC) enjoyed a record high in net customer growth and hit an eight-year best in first-quarter sales. The cable company, which is set to be acquired by Charter Communications (CHTR) - Get Charter Communications, Inc. Class A Report , posted a 7.2% increase in revenue, while profit rose 9%.
ConocoPhillips (COP) - Get ConocoPhillips Report was on watch after reporting a narrower-than-expected loss in its first quarter. The oil company posted an adjusted loss of 95 cents a share, narrower than a forecast $1.05. ConocoPhillips also cut its full-year capital spending guidance to $5.7 billion from $6.4 billion.
Priceline (PCLN) chief executive officer Darren Huston has announced his resignation from the company after an investigation into a relationship with an employee. The board found Huston "engaged in activities inconsistent to the company's code of conduct." Huston will not receive any severance.
Oracle (ORCL) - Get Oracle Corporation Report was slightly lower after announcing plans to purchase Textura (TXTR) in a deal worth $663 million. Textura, which provides construction payment management services, processes $3.4 billion a month. Oracle expects the deal to close by this year.