Wall Street was set to extend recent gains that have seen key indexes hit their highest since 2008, on optimism for economic recovery, and mergers and acquisitions activity.
* Futures for the Dow Jones, S&P 500 and Nasdaq were up 0.2-0.4 percent at 0843 GMT on Wednesday.
* The FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of leading European shares was down 0.3 percent at 1,141.05 points with French utilities EDF
* Gold prices rallied to record highs on Wednesday against a backdrop of a weaker dollar and ongoing investor worries over inflation and unrest in the Arab world, while silver touched fresh 31-year peaks.
* The euro rose to a 14-month high against the dollar, ahead of an expected interest rate rise by the European Central Bank. Traders also cited buying by Asian central banks.
* With time running short, U.S. President Barack Obama failed on Tuesday to break a deadlock in budget talks between his Democrats and Republicans that threatens a partial shutdown of the U.S. government.
* On Tuesday, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX>, Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> and Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> ended little changed. The S&P 500 failed to break a key technical resistance level for a second day as low trading volume raised further questions about the market's strength.
* Divisions at the U.S. Federal Reserve over how soon to reverse course on monetary policy emerged more clearly last month, although the central bank appeared intent to complete a $600 billion bond-buying plan. A few officials at the Fed's March 15 policy-setting meeting thought a stronger economy could warrant tightening monetary conditions this year.
(Reporting by Brian Gorman; Editing by Dan Lalor)