Stock index futures started off Wednesday in positive territory, thanks to surprisingly optimistic data from the United States Department of Labor. Jobless claims dropped in the first week of the month; for the week ending November 6, the advance seasonally adjusted claims figure was 435,000, down from the previous week's revised figure of 459,000.
Florida and South Carolina saw the biggest drops in unemployment claims, while California added more than 6,000 new claims.
"This is further confirmation that the job market is slowly improving," Russell Price, a senior economist at Ameriprise Financial, told Bloomberg News. "We are now headed in the right direction and may make some progress in breaking free of the range we’ve been stuck in since the beginning of the year."
U.S. stock index futures pointed to a upbeat opening, but equities quickly sold off after the bell. Dow Jones Industrial Average index futures slid 53 points to 11,260 at 9:51 a.m. EST, while S&P 500 index futures dropped 4.6 points to 1,206.30. Nasdaq 100 index futures declined 13.25 points to 2,163.
Foreign equities also dropped, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng index futures losing 277 points to 24,408 at 3:43 a.m. EST. A lone bright spot was seen in Tokyo, where Nikkei 225 index futures gained 70 points to 9,880 at 9:30 a.m. EST.