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Futures Pause After Tuesday's Gains

U.S. stock index futures drifted ahead of the open Wednesday, taking a pause after the major indexes secured strong gains at the close Tuesday, on the back of better-than-expected existing-home sales data.

Both the Dow and the S&P 500 registered their highest closes since September 26, 2008 Tuesday, with the Nasdaq posting its highest finish since August 18, 2008.

Investors will likely now shift their focus to the end of the first quarter and the beginning of earnings season, as well as the March employment report set to be released at the end of next week.

European stocks continued to push higher, but investors kept one eye on the UK's pre-election budget for insight into the current government's deficit-cutting plans. Asian stocks ended mostly in the green in the wake of Wall Street's performance.

A number of economic reports will occupy investor attention in the interim, including Wednesday's release of the February durable goods report due at 8:30 am New York time. Economists are looking for durable goods orders to have risen 0.7 percent last month, following a 2.6 percent rise in January.

Two housing related numbers are on the day's agenda as well, with the Mortgage Bankers Association releasing the weekly mortgage applications report at 7 am, and the government issuing new home sales figures for February at 10 am. Economists think new home sales will register a 1.9 percent rise for February after an 11.2 percent drop in January.

The Treasury will auction $42 billion in 5-year notes Wednesday, with the results available shortly after 1 pm.

In corporate news, Adobe beat Wall Street estimates with fiscal first-quarter earnings and sales, while Jabil Circuit beat on profit but fell short on sales, helping push the shares down 6 percent in after-hours trading.

Darden Restaurants was also out with an after-the-bell earnings report, with the owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster beating consensus forecasts.

San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen was the last of several Fed speakers Tuesday, echoing a message that's been prominent among Fed officials: the central bank is in no hurry to raise rates. Yellen says the state of the economy makes the current accommodative policy appropriate.

Automaker Fiat will reportedly cut 5,000 jobs in Italy, news that helped push its shares to a two-month high. Fiat took a stake in U.S. carmaker Chrysler in 2009.

Former New Jersey Governor and ex-Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine will become chairman and CEO for futures and options broker MF Global Holdings.

- Written by Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk.

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