A strong showing from an industrial bellwether and anticipation for the latest minutes from the Federal Reserve propelled U.S. stock futures into positive territory Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, European exchanges were mostly higher, driven by strong results from eurozone automakers. But a rally in Asian markets overnight was dampened by a 2.1% selloff on Japan's Nikkei 225 index, which was led by weakness in the country's auto sector.
Turning to earnings, Alcoa (AA) may no longer be a Dow component, but it still heralds the opening of earnings season. The aluminum maker rang up a quarterly profit surprise to the upside late Tuesday and forecast that demand for aluminum will outstrip production in 2014. Jim Cramer wrote that Alcoa's results indicate that the "needle movers are all going in the right direction."
In another sign of broader economic recovery, home-loan applications continue to improve slowly: The figure ticked 3% higher last week, though it's still lower compared with this time last year. The sole economic report due today is wholesale trade data at 10 a.m. ET. Economists expect inventories to hold steady in February at 0.6%.
Also, at 2 p.m. the Fed is set to release the minutes of last month's Federal Open Market Committee meeting. With stimulus tapering falling off the radar, Wall Street will be listening for any talk of rate hikes. Afterward, look for appearances by the Chicago Fed's Charles Evans and Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo.
Intuitive Surgical (ISRG) is a stock to watch after the maker of robotic surgery equipment lowered its first-quarter revenue forecast below Wall Street estimates last night. Shares were down about 10% in premarket trading. Reality Check's Herb Greenberg maintained his red flag on the shares this morning.
And spirits maker Constellation Brands (STZ) beat profit estimates by a nickel per share this morning, boosting shares by more than 3% in extended trading.