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Futures Gain; Commodity Prices Rise

Stock index futures rose ahead of the open Wednesday as commodity prices continued to surge.

Commodity prices resumed their climb, hitting new highs. Gold prices hit an all-time high of $1,460 an ounceearlier, and is now trading slightly lower, although still above $1,258, as silver also continues to climb to record levels. The dollar , meanwhile, traded flat against a basket of currencies.

London Brent crude rose to near 2 1/2-year highs to more than $122 a barrel as U.S. light crudetraded above $108 a barrel.

In the U.S., a Friday deadline for Congress to approve a spending bill draws ever closer. Negotiators will meet again on Wednesday in an effort to find a deal on budget cuts after negotiating sessions on Tuesday failed to produce an agreement.

The Mortgage Bankers Association'sweekly gauge of mortgage loan activity dropped 2 percent in the week ended April 1, led by refinancing applications, which fell 6.2 percent.

Investors were also encouraged by an improving situation in Japanwhere engineers stopped highly radioactive water leaking into the sea from the earthquake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant.

Although the news brought some relief, nuclear experts warned the crisis was far from over. Concerns over the impact of the earthquake and tsunami on Japan’s economy also still lingered, with investors looking out for signals from the Bank of Japan after its two-day policy meeting Thursday that it may ease monetary policy.

M&A activity continues to dominate headlines for stocks.

NYSE Euronext'sboard of directors plans to meet by April 14 to consider Nasdaq OMX Group's unsolicited takeover bid, though no firm date has been set, a person familiar with the plan told Reuters Tuesday. A NYSE spokesman told CNBC that the Nasdaq counteroffer: "Is not an alternative we are considering, period."

In earnings news, Monsanto traded slightly lower after reporting disappointing revenues, although the fertilizer producer beat estimates for its earnings per share.

The European debt crisis also remained firmly in focus as speculation that Portugal will seek a bailout intensified.

The country raised 1 billion euros in a short-term debt auction Wednesday but at a very steep cost, with yields rising sharply.

Separately, the Financial Times Deutschland reported on Wednesday that some euro zone governments are concerned highly indebted Greece will not be able to refinance itself and may have to restructure its debt.

On Tap This Week:

WEDNESDAY: Oil inventories, Treasury STRIPS; Earnings from Bed Bath & Beyond after-the-bell.
THURSDAY: Monthly chain-store sales, Bank of England Announcement, European Central Bank announcement, jobless claims, consumer credit, money supply; Lacker speaks; earnings from Constellation Brands before-the-bell and Rite Aid after-the-bell.
FRIDAY: Wholesale trade.

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