Dow futures up triple digits as oil gains

U.S. stock index futures ticked higher early on Wednesday, as risk appetite returned to Asian and European stock markets amid an oil rebound.

Brent and WTI crude oil futures gained about 3 percent to trade above $31 per barrel on Wednesday, pulling away from the psychologically important $30 mark, after better-than-expected trade data from China.


Chinese crude imports hit a record in December, according to customs data. Overall Chinese exports and imports fell by less than expected in December, leaving a trade surplus of over $60 billion for the month, the data showed.

While the Shanghai composite stock index erased early gains to close 2.4 percent lower, Asian markets mostly closed higher on Wednesday, while European markets extended gains.

"China may take a back seat for a day or two, but oil prices remain a threat to markets, as oil-producing countries and companies rethink the medium-term outlook," Kit Juckes, strategist at Societe Generale, said in a research note on Wednesday.

"Weak oil prices will be a major factor behind default rates in 2016 and even if the latest rush of forecasts of oil reaching $25/20/10 (a barrel) aren't proven right, the damage has already been done," he added.

The strength of the U.S. dollar also remains a concern for traders and will likely feature heavily in this quarter's earnings reports. No major U.S. companies are due to post results on Wednesday, but Infosys, a major employer in the states, will report after the market closes.

Infosys (Info Systems) glass building in India.
Huw Jones | Lonely Planet Images | Getty Images
Infosys (Info Systems) glass building in India.

In other stock news, General Electric announced plans to cut 6,500 jobs in Europe over the next two years on Wednesday.

At 2 p.m. ET, the Federal Reserve's Beige Book and the monthly budget will be released and may shed some light on the state of the economy and when the next interest rate hike may come.

In a Wednesday speech, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said global and U.S. economic growth may be slipping and force the Federal Reserve into a more gradual course of rate hikes than officials currently expect.

"While monetary policy should not overreact to short-term temporary fluctuations in financial markets, policy makers should take seriously the potential downside risk to their economic forecasts and manage those risks as we think about the appropriate path," Rosengren said.

Weekly crude inventories are also due on Wednesday.

Mortgage application volume increased 21.3 percent last week versus the previous week on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

U.S. Treasury prices fell on Wednesday ahead of a $21 billion auction in benchmark 10-year notes.

— Reuters contributed to this report.