U.S. stocks fell at the opening Thursday on the heels of a sharp down in European stocks thanks to deflation concerns in the area.
Official data showed Thursday that Euro-area inflation dropped to 0.4 percent in July, the slowest since 2009, igniting market worries that the European economy is still not healthy enough to support a price rise.
Responding to the data, major stock indices in Europe decreased over 1 percent Thursday, which also weighed on the U.S. stock market.
As for the United States, in the week ending July 26, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for jobless benefits was 302,000, an increase of 23,000 from the previous week's revised level, but still less than market expectations.
The four-week moving average, a smoother gauge, dropped to 297,250, the lowest level since April in 2006.
Moreover, the Chicago Purchasing Managers' Index for July stood at 52.6, the lowest since June 2013, sharply down from 62.6 in June, the Institute for Supply Management reported Thursday. The Chicago Business Barometer was also well below market consensus. Readings above 50 indicate an expansion.
On the corporate side, ExxonMobil, the world's largest publicly traded oil company, reported before the opening bell that it earned 8.8 billion dollars in the second quarter of 2014, up 28 percent from the year ago, reflecting strong operations and asset divestments.
Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average went down 88.40 points, or 0.52 percent, to 16,791.96. The S&P 500 declined 12.53 points, or 0.64 percent, to 1,957.54. The Nasdaq Composite Index tumbled 42.06 points, or 0.94 percent, to 4,420.84.
On the previous trading day, U.S. stocks closed mixed after fluctuating narrowly, as investors mulled the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest policy decision and a strong rebound of the country's gross domestic product in the second quarter.