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

New York - US stocks opened sharply lower Thursday following a big retreat in European exchanges sparked by problems at a large Portuguese bank.

Five minutes into trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 150.91 points (0.89 percent) to 16,834.70.

The broad-based S&P 500 slumped 18.25 (0.93 percent) to 1,954.58, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index slid 62.67

(1.42 percent) to 4,356.36.

Equity markets in Britain, France and Germany were all much lower as Portugal's market regulator halted trading in the country's biggest bank, Banco Espirito Santo, after shares plunged over allegations the bank's parent company covered up a 1.3 billion euro hole in the accounts.

The crisis surrounding BES has renewed concern that Portugal's banks remain vulnerable after the country emerged from a three-year international bailout in May.

Even before the BES woes, some market watchers in the US predicted a decline in US stocks after the Dow and S&P 500 surged to records last week. Analysts worry that a lackluster earnings season could set US stocks back 10-12 percent in the coming weeks. - Sapa-AFP