Stock futures rose on Wednesday as news of a tentative deal ending a strike at General Motors Corp raised hopes that Detroit's automakers would soon slash their health-care costs.
Shares of GM, a Dow component, rose 8.4 percent to $37.30 before the opening bell, while shares of Ford Motor Co gained 4.4 percent to $8.71.
Data on August durable goods orders due before the bell will be watched for clues about how the manufacturing sector has performed during the housing slump.
Any sign of weakness in the report could bolster hopes for another reduction in interest rates following the Federal Reserve's aggressive interest-rate cut last week.
The GM settlement has got the market looking higher. As the actual strike began, there was a lot of concern it would contribute to the economy's slowing too quickly, said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.
The market is also looking for weak economic news that would cause the Fed to lower rates. More rate cuts are seen spurring business spending, which would benefit technology stocks. In addition, lower borrowing costs would also boost shares of banks and other financial services companies.
S&P 500 futures rose 7.6 points, and were above fair value, a mathematical formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract.
Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 56 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 13 points.
The GM deal, which will have to be approved by a majority of unionized workers, includes a groundbreaking health-care trust fund known as a voluntary employee beneficiary association, or VEBA.
Wall Street analysts have said establishing a VEBA could cut GM's annual costs by $3 billion in exchange for a one-off payment expected to top $30 billion.
Red Hat Inc could rise further after the software maker posted quarterly results that beat estimates and sent its shares up more than 4 percent in after-hours trading on Tuesday.
MetLife Inc, the largest U.S. life insurer said after the bell on Tuesday its board authorized an additional $1 billion share repurchase.
Mobile phone service provider Sprint Nextel Corp was cut to neutral from buy by Goldman Sachs.
In other corporate news, Nasdaq and Borse Dubai, which have teamed up to buy Swedish exchange operator OMX, on Wednesday raised the bid by 15 percent and were now close to a majority stake.