Stocks were poised to bounce back at the open on Thursday, a day after Wall Street wiped out most of its gains for the year, but Japan's nuclear crisis was set to drive trading in another volatile session for markets.
In a sell-off Wednesday on the highest volume this year, the S&P 500 <.SPX> and Nasdaq <.IXIC> turned negative for the year, while the Dow posted its worst daily decline since August as uncertainty about the extent of the calamity in quake-hit Japan panicked investors.
Natural resource stocks were set to lead the market as commodity prices rebounded and tensions in the Middle East and North Africa lifted oil. Cliffs Natural Resources Inc
Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia, said the market was vulnerable but investor were taking advantage of beaten-down prices.
We've had some significant declines in the equity markets at least partly attributed to some panic selling, he said.
S&P 500 futures rose 19 points and were above 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 116 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures put on 29.25 points.
Economic bellwether FedEx Corp
Brent crude rose 2.4 percent to over $113 as tensions in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain fueled fears of further supply disruptions while investors weighed the impact on energy demand from Japan.
New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits fell as expected last week, pointing to a strengthening labor market, while U.S. consumer prices rose at their fastest pace in more than 1-1/2 years but inflation pressures remained generally contained.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)