Futures added to slight gains despite news of a slight dip in jobless claims that fell short of expectations, although productivity grew at a faster pace than previously thought in the first quarter.
The firmer tone comes a day after the market suffered its biggest losses since last August as investors waited for more clues on the strength of the economy ahead of Friday's government jobs report.
Initial claims for unemploymentfell 6,000 to 422,000, the Labor Department reported. Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected claims to fall to 415,000. The four-week average of claims fell to 425,000. Job growth occurs when jobless claims are below 375,000, economists say.
U.S. nonfarm productivity grew at a 1.8 percent annual rate in the first quarter, slightly more than previously estimated, while labor costs only increased by 0.7 percent, the Labor Department said. Productivity had previously been reported as growing at a 1.6 percent rate.
"We've been through a couple week period here where basically every piece of economic data has just been awful. This was a little less awful, but still awful," John Canally, investment strategist and economist for LPL Financial in Boston, told Reuters.
"You get to a certain point with the economic data that it is just so bad and expectations are so low, that anything that is not a disaster pushes the market up, and we may be getting that, although the big news really is tomorrow's jobs report," Cannally added.
Retailers began posting monthly sales figures with mixed results amid higher prices for gasoline prices.
Costco's same-store sales in May beat estimates thanks to higher gas prices, rising 13 percent, while BJ's Wholesale also did better-than-expected. But Limited Brands, owner of Victoria's Secret, Gap, Target and TJX all missed.