U.S. stocks opened sharply lower Thursday following a slew of mixed economic data, as investors are still worried about when the U.S. Federal Reserve will start to trim its monetary stimulus.
Major stock indices fell over 1 percent within minutes after the opening bell.
On the economic front, the number of Americans who initially applied for jobless benefits in the week ending Aug. 10 decreased 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted number of 320,000, the lowest level in nearly six years, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all urban consumers increased 0.2 percent in July on a seasonally adjusted basis, and the so-called "core" CPI for all items less food and energy also rose 0.2 percent in the past month, the third straight such increase, the Labor Department said in a separate report.
Manufacturing activity in the New York region increased at a slightly slower pace in August, standing at 8.24 from 9.46 in July, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Thursday in a survey.
Moreover, industrial production was unchanged in July after having gained 0.2 percent in June, according to the Federal Reserve.
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard on Thursday morning reiterated his dovish comments on Wednesday that the central bank needs to see more data in the second half of this year before it starts to wind down its massive bond buying program.
In corporate news, Wal-Mart Stores shares fell 2.58 percent to trade at 74.43 dollars a share in early trading, as the world's largest retailer on Thursday morning reported disappointing second-quarter earnings.
Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 165.36 points, or 1.08 percent, to 15,172.30 points. The S&P 500 lost 17.45 points, or 1.04 percent, to 1,667.94 points. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 46.53 points, or 1.27 percent, to 3,622.74 points.