U.S. stock index futures edged higher Tuesday, balancing a reveral of earlier gains in European shares against increased optimism from small businesses.
Some encouraging comments on the economy from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke also gave some investors a reason to buy ahead of trading.
Also, the National Federation of Independent Business said its survey showed the second straight month of gain in its small business optimism indexin May. Businesses owners said they are slightly more optimistic about the economy than they have been in the last
two years but are still not ready to hire and increase capital spending.
The NFIB index was up 1.6 points in the month bringing the index to 92.2, the highest reading since September 2008.
In company news, McDonald's shares rose nearly 1 percent in premarket trading after the fast-food giant reported a larger-than-expected 4.8 percent rise in global sales for May.
Depomed saw its shares jump about 9 percent, a day after it said its market application for an experimental pain drug had received Food and Drug Administration approval, triggeriong a $10 million milestone payment from the drug's licensee.
Talbot's gained 2 percent after the retailer beat earnings expectations and affirmed its full-year outlook.
Fears about a spreading European sovereign debt crisis, a slowdown in China and a weak U.S. job market have rattled global markets, with investors wary about whether the recent bad news is just the tip of the iceburg.
U.S. stocks fell on Monday, taking the S&P 500 to its lowest close in seven months, after last week's disappointing employment figures sapped investors' appetite for risk Bernanke gave sentiment a boost with his statement that the recovery is gaining traction and U.S. economy is not likely to double-dip.
He also said that European leaders were committed to ensuring the survival of the euro and had enough money to meet obligations of heavily indebted member countries, soothing investor concerns over the region's debt crisis.
In Europe, finance ministers also attempted to restore market confidence on Monday by agreeing how to launch a massive anti-contagion program if necessary.
The euro rose slightly but was still near four-year lows against the dollar on Tuesday.
Most Asian stock indexes closed higher on Tuesday, as traders waited for Chinese economic data and a European Central Bank meeting later in the week.
The Nikkei average rose 0.2 percent in a volatile session, and investors went bargain-hunting after the benchmark suffered its biggest one-day fall in 14 months.
Another day brought another several thousand barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.
But on Monday, BPsaid that a cap was capturing 11,000 barrels of oil a day from the well. The official government estimate of the flow rate is 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day. A complete halt of the flow isn’t expected until August, and the Obama administration is under increasing political pressure to stop the oil flow as soon as possible.
A Washington Post/ABC poll found that 69 percent of Americans believe the government had done a "not so good" or "poor" job handling the spill.
Oil rose towards $72 on Tuesday as investor worries faded that Europe's debt crisis would curb the demand for energy.
The latest corporate earnings results are expected from Dollar General , vehicle and engine maker Navistar , and apparel design company Oxford Industries .
The latest iPhone hit the shelves on Monday, as Apple attempts to stay one step ahead of rivals like Google in the smartphone market.
The new $199 "iPhone 4" is a quarter slimmer than the current handset and with about double the picture quality. It also sports the in-house A4 processor and allows video chat.