U.S. stock index futures edged down on Thursday ahead of a key speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. The equities were also weighed down by the increasing tensions between the US and China. As per reports, Powell is expected to take a softer stance on inflation to support a fragile economy.

The Fed chairman is likely to make a case for low interest rates and higher inflation in an overhaul of the central bank's policy approach in his remarks at the Jackson Hole symposium, being held virtually this year, Reuters reported.

Before his address at 9:10 a.m. EDT (1310 GMT), investors will get a look at the weekly jobless claims report, the most timely U.S. economic indicator, which is expected to have dipped to 1 million for the week ended Aug. 22.

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Reuters reports:

Recent data suggests a wobbly recovery from one of the worst recessions for the U.S. economy since the Great Depression.

Still, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq have risen for the past five session to new highs, largely driven by investors pouring into heavyweight technology-related stocks.

Trading on Thursday was weighed down by U.S. sanctions on China over military action in the disputed South China Sea.

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People queue beside the bronze bull in the Financial district which has become a Wall Street icon in New York City, July 18, 2013. U.S. stocks continued to rise on Thursday, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 to fresh all-time highs, boosted by upbeat economic data and corporate earnings. IANS

At 6:16 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis 1YMcv1 were down 84 points, or 0.3%, S&P 500 e-minis EScv1 were down 7.75 points, or 0.22% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQcv1 were down 27.25 points, or 0.23%.

Among early movers, NetApp Inc (NTAP.O) jumped 10.2% in premarket trading after it posted better-than-expected quarterly results, powered by demand for its cloud services. Abbott Laboratories (ABT.N) gained 9.2% after the medical device maker won U.S. marketing authorization for a $5 rapid COVID-19 portable antigen test.

Quarterly reports from retailers Abercrombie & Fitch Co (ANF.N), Dollar Tree Inc (DLTR.O), Dollar General Corp (DG.N) and cosmetic maker Coty Inc (COTY.N) were also due premarket.