US futures higher

New York - US stock index futures advanced modestly on Thursday, putting the S&P 500 on track for a second day of gains, ahead of data on the labour market and consumer spending.

The US bourse is set to open higher as European leaders get ready to meet. Credit: REUTERS

China's economy slowed markedly in the first two months of the year, as growth in investment, retail sales and factory output all fell to multi-year lows.

Expectations are for claims to have risen to 330,000 from 323,000 filings in the prior week.

Retail sales are forecast to have risen 0.2 percent, against a 0.4 percent fall in the prior month.

Germany's Angela Merkel warned Moscow it risked “massive” political and economic damage if it refused to change course on Ukraine, saying Western leaders were ready to impose sanctions on Russia if necessary.

Russia announced it had started military exercises near the border with Ukraine, in what is likely to be seen as a show of force in the standoff with the West over the Crimea peninsula.

Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 20 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 7.75 points.

Expectations call for a 0.4 percent increase versus a 0.5 percent rise in the prior month.