* Futures down: Dow 59 pts, S&P 7.75 pts, Nasdaq 18.75 pts
By Abhiram Nandakumar
March 17 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were lower on Thursday, a day after the Federal Reserve's lowered expectations of two interest rate hikes in 2016 pushed the S&P 500 to its highest close this year.
* The Fed, which left rates unchanged, pointed to moderate U.S. economic growth and a strengthening labor market but cautioned about risks from an uncertain global economy.
* The confidence from the Fed's decision adds to the recent rally in oil prices and improving economic conditions in the United States that have helped stocks recover from a rout that had gripped the market this year.
* The S&P 500 is now off only 0.8 percent in 2016, after having fallen 10.5 percent earlier in the year.
* The dollar weakened after the Fed statement, contributing to a recovery in crude prices on Thursday. Benchmark Brent gained above $40 a barrel as the market continues to be hopeful of a plan by major oil producers to tackle a global glut.
* Investors will now parse data to assess if the economy's recovery will continue to gain momentum, even as weak economic conditions at other major countries continue to prompt their central banks to further loosen monetary policies.
* Data on Thursday is expected to show unemployment claims rose by 9,000 to 268,000 last week. The report is due at 8:30 a.m. ET (1230 GMT).
* Shares of Mondelez International were down 2.2 percent at $40.80 premarket after billionaire investor William Ackman sold 20 million shares of the snack maker.
* Caterpillar was down 3.8 percent at $71.50 after the Dow component cut its first-quarter profit and revenue forecast.
Futures snapshot at 6:58 a.m. ET:
* Dow e-minis were down 59 points, or 0.34 percent, with 32,366 contracts changing hands.
* S&P 500 e-minis were down 7.75 points, or 0.38 percent, with 265,745 contracts traded.
* Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 18.75 points, or 0.43 percent, on volume of 27,636 contracts. (Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian)