US STOCKS-Futures lower as Fed rate hike seen further out; data eyed
* Futures down: Dow 15 pts, S&P 2 pts, Nasdaq 9.5 pts
By Tanya Agrawal
May 21 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were slightly lower on Thursday, a day after minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting bolstered expectations that interest rates would stay near zero until later this year.
* Officials at the Fed's April policy meeting believed it would be premature to raise rates in June, according to the minutes, even though most felt the U.S. economy was set to rebound from a dismal start to the year - a notion that could be tested on Thursday when a raft of data is due.
* Data is expected to show new applications for unemployment insurance likely picked up last week from the preceding week when they hit their lowest levels in nearly 15 years. The jobless claims data is due at 8:30 a.m. ET (1230 GMT).
* Data measuring the growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector in May is due at 9:45 a.m. ET and 15 minutes later the National Association of Realtors data is expected to show that sales of used homes increased last month.
* The central bank debated in its April 28-29 policy meet whether a slew of disappointing data, including weak consumer spending, signaled a temporary slump or evidence of a longer-lasting slowdown.
* The Fed has kept interest rates at near zero for almost a decade, which has made funds cheaper and helped the stock market reach record highs.
* The S&P 500 hit a record intraday high on Wednesday. The Dow, which had closed at record highs in the previous two sessions, was also briefly on track for another all-time high close. Continuación...