U.S. stock-index futures maintained Wednesday gains even as data had builders starting work on fewer houses in March than analyst had expected, as investors considered a slew of bank, technology and pharmaceutical earnings.
Another report ahead of Wednesday's open had industrial production rising 0.7 percent in March versus a 0.5 percent estimate.
The Commerce Department reported home construction bounced back less than expected last month, with housing starts rising 2.8 percent to a 946,000 annualized rate after a 1.9 percent gain in February.
"Mitigating the miss is an upward revision to the prior month's data," said Dan Greenhaus, chief strategist at BTIG LLC, referring to February's gain, revised from previously estimated 0.2 percent fall.
Bank of America posted a first-quarter loss as the No. 2 U.S. bank recorded $6 billion in litigation expenses related to a settlement with the Federal Housing Finance Agency and other mortgage-related matters.
Both Yahoo and Intel beat estimates when they reported quarterly earnings after the end of trade on Tuesday. Yahoo shares rose as much as 9 percent in after-hours trading and Intel shares also climbed.
U.S. stocks turned higher on Tuesday, with the Nasdaq exchange making its largest rebound in five years, as investors weighed upbeat earnings from Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson against disappointing reads on builder sentiment and New York-area manufacturing.
More housing indicators on Wednesday
Wednesday's data follows Tuesday's disappointing NAHB housing market survey. The Federal Reserve's Beige Book for April, providing more anecdotal evidence on how economic activity is recovering after the severe winter weather.
In addition, Fed Chair Janet Yellen will speak at the Economic Club of New York. The Fed's Jeremy Stein and Dennis Lockhart were addressing the Atlanta Fed's financial market conference and Richard Fisher will speak in Texas.
In Atlanta, Lockhart said the central bank should strive to make its communications on the anticipated direction of interest rates and the economy align with policy statements.
Early on Wednesday, global shares rose after China's first quarter gross domestic product numbers quelled fear of a hard landing. The world's second-largest economy expanded 7.4 percent between January and March, beating market expectations for growth of 7.3 percent.
"Growth did slow down, but it's not as bad as worst fears had suggested," Louis Kuijis, chief China economist at RBS, told CNBC.
Ukraine-Russia tensions were expected to continue, with concern Russia is stirring unrest in the east of Ukraine. The White House has said that Ukraine's actions against pro-Russia militia are justified, and that more sanctions may be applied against Russia.
—By CNBC's Katy Barnato