Futures advanced Wednesday after an unexpected rise in durable-goods orders snapped a six-month slide.
The gains were a welcome reprieve after Tuesday's flop, which sent major indexes down more than 1 percent.
Durable-goods orders jumped 3.4 percent to $165.6 billion in February, an unexpected move, after six straight months of decline. Economists had expected that streak to continue with a 2.2-percent drop. Excluding the volatile transportation component, orders rose 3.9 percent, the largest gain since August 2005.
In an early report, mortgage applications surged 32.2 percent last week, buoyed by a drop in mortgage rates and a flock of refinancing moves, which made up 78.5 percent of the gain.
Still to come: Reports on new home sales data and crude inventories will be released shortly after the opening bell.
Asian stocks closed mixed while European markets also searched for direction as Europe once again rejected US calls to spend more to help the world get out of recession.
President Obama said in a prime-time address Tuesday he was seeing signs of progress in his drive to lead the United States out of economic crisis and the Federal Reserve is preparing to start buying Treasurys to boost the money supply.
But the measure is far from spurring the enthusiasm it did when it was first announced.
"I am a bit concerned on spending… this is one of the things that's going to lead to a weaker dollar down the road," Jared Levy from Financial Markets Education told CNBC.
"Longer term I don't feel that comfortable with it. I feel at this point the government is throwing everything against the wall and hopes that something sticks," Levy told "Worldwide Exchange."
At the same time, the administration ran into more trouble in its efforts to institute the bailout plan as hedge fund manager Frank Brosens, a big Democratic donor expected to run the bank bailout, withdrew his name from nomination.
In corporate news, Tuesday evening Standard & Poor's revised its outlook on investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, cutting its Berkshire Hathaway Finance unit to negative from stable, because declines in shares values in 2009 meant the group's capital may no longer be adequate for its triple-A rating.
Citigroup's recent decision to do a reverse stock split may be enough to quell calls for the bank's removal from the Dow , the chairman of the Dow Jones Index oversight committee John Prestbo said.
Citi gained 2 percent in premarket trading, leading bank shares higher in early-morning action.