Stocks were poised to rebound slightly Tuesday, as investors waited for some more data on the broader economy due shortly after the start of trading.
Energy was also in focus, although this time it was natural gas making headlines instead of crude. Natural gas futures rose more than 1 percent after Russian gas supplies to some EU countries fell sharply.
At the same time, US light, sweeet crude hit a one-month high above $50 a barrel as Israel's incursion into Gaza and a dispute between Russia and Ukraine over natural gas heightened concern about supply disruptions.
The move higher boosted shares of major energy producers, with ExxonMobil climbing about 0.5 percent in premarket trading.
In corporate news, shares of Logitech International slipped after the world's largest computer mouse manufacturer cut its 2009 forecast and said it would be cutting jobs.
Also, Dow Chemical gained 3 percent after the company said it would pursue legal options in a failed joint venture with Kuwait's Petrochemical Industries.
In the financial sector, Merrill Lynch's brokerage head Robert J. McCann resigned just as the company's acquisition by Bank of America was completed. McCann's departure can be related to continued tension with Merrill president John Thain, sources told CNBC.
And General Electric's financial arm plans to sell $10 billion in FDIC-backed debt, the largest sale under the government loan guarantee program so far. (GE is the parent company of CNBC.)
In the auto industry, whose dismal sales for December nevertheless beat analyst expectations, Toyota Motor said it was suspending production in Japan for 11 days, while General Motors said its sales in China for 2008 were up 6 percent but slowing. GM shares gained 1 percent premarket.
Looking to the economy, the government will release the latest data on factory orders at 10 am New York time. Economists expect that orders fell 2.6 percent in November, compared with a 5.1 percent drop in October.
At the same time, the Institute of Supply Management releases its measure of non-manufacturing activity, with economists predicting the services index dropped to 37 last month from 37.3 in November.