Stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wednesday after news of government aid for life insurers and a merger among homebuilders spurred optimism and offset a quarterly loss from Alcoa .

Insurers surged in premarket trade on news the U.S. Treasury Department plans to extend the Trouble Asset Relief Program to certain life insurers, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Shares of Hartford Financial and Lincoln National rose more than 23 percent.

Helping to further offset earnings news, Pulte Homes
said it would buy Texas-based builder Centex for $1.3 billion in stock against the backdrop of a troubled industry.

It is a positive that especially in a struggling industry like housing, prices have fallen to level where they see value, said Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist, Cantor Fitzgerald & Co. in San Francisco.

Its good for the market and is something we expect to see across the board in many industries.

S&P 500 futures rose 3.30 points and were below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 17

points, and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 11.25 points.

Alcoa kicked off earnings season with a first-quarter net loss that was worse than Wall Street estimated as metal prices and the auto industry slumped. Shares edged higher to $8.01 in premarket trade after initially falling 3.7 percent.

Shares of Centex jumped more than 30 percent to $10 while Pulte shed 3 percent to $10.45.

Still, weak earnings announcements from around the globe continued as Intel , the world's largest chipmaker, is unsure of when demand for semiconductors will revive, said Chairman Craig Barrett.

Shares of the chipmaker were flat after slipping 0.6 percent to $15.36.

Sharp Corp <6753.T>, the world's No. 3 LCD TV maker, doubled its loss estimates for the year just ended on a slump in sales of its Tvs and panels, but unveiled plans for a cost-efficient new factory in an effort to cut costs.

German carmaker Daimler forecast a significant drop in revenue in all of its automotive business this year as it pushed back its of when the beleaguered industry might recover.

U.S. securities regulators meet on Wednesday to consider restrictions on short selling, a type of investing blamed by some lawmakers and executives for exacerbating the financial crisis and driving down share prices.

U.S. stocks slid on Tuesday, hammered by fears that companies will show they struggled in the first quarter as the recession dragged on as the earnings season kicked off with Alcoa.

With declines in the past two trading sessions, the S&P 500 has now trimmed its rise from the March 9 low to 20.6 percent.

(Additional reporting by Edward Krudy)

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Theodore d'Afflisio)