U.S. Markets

Futures on major U.S. stock indices point to higher opening on Wednesday ahead of wave of economic data including producer price index and building permits.

Futures on the S&P 500 are up 0.37 percent, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average are up 0.28 percent and Nasdaq100 futures are up 0.28 percent.

Investors are likely to focus on monthly producer price index, building permits and housing starts data which are due to be released before the markets open, while Industrial production data will be released after the opening bell.

The Producer Price Index is expected to rise 0.8 percent in January compared to 1.1 percent in the previous month and industrial production index is expected to show a 0.6 percent growth compared to 0.8 percent growth in the previous month.

Economists are forecasting that housing starts will edge higher to 550,000 units in January compared to 530,000 in the previous month, while building permits are expected to decline to 570,000 units in January compared to 630,000 in the previous month.

U.S. stocks ended lower on Tuesday as retail sales raised doubts about the economic recovery. Energy and basic materials equities led the way downward, albeit in moderate trading volume.

European Markets

European stock markets advanced for the fourth day on Wednesday, led by gains from financial sector companies after Societe Generale reported better-than-expected fourth quarter earnings.

The Stoxx 600 advanced 0.35 percent to 290.46, its highest level since September 2008. DAX30 up by 12.51 points or 0.17 percent to 7,412.55, CAC 40 advanced 32.51 points or 0.79 percent 4,142.85 and the FTSE 100 advanced 29.38 points or 0.49 percent 6,066.46

Societe Generale led the gains in financial sector, following better-than-expected fourth quarter earnings. Its fourth quarter net income surged 74 percent to 874 million euros, topping analysts’ estimates of 868 million euros.

French drug maker Sanofi-Aventis climbed 3.6 percent after it agreed to acquire U.S. biotechnology company Genzyme (Nasdaq: GENZ) for $74.00 per share in cash or about $20.1 billion, plus extra payments linked to experimental multiple sclerosis drug Lemtrada.

Asian Markets

Asian stock markets ended mixed on Wednesday with Japanese Nikkei advanced to log a 10-month closing high, led by gains from exporter shares on back of weaker yen.

Tokyo shares ended higher as sentiment was buoyed after Nomura Holdings Inc. raised its growth forecasts for Japan and exporters gained as yen falls against dollar. The benchmark Nikkei index advanced 0.57 percent or 61.62 points to 10,808.29.

The Bank of Japan Tuesday raised its overall economic assessment for the first time in nine months as faster overseas growth bolsters exports and production.

The dollar advanced to a nearly two-month high of 83.91 yen due to brighter U.S. economic outlook for 2011. Exporters including Sony Corp. and Sharp gained more than 2.5 percent, while Toshiba Corp. Surged 3.19 percent and Nintendo Co. climbed 4.2 percent.

Chinese Shanghai composite gained 0.86 percent or 24.95 points to 2,924.19 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 1.12 percent or 257.19 points to 23,156.97.

Meanwhile, South Korean shares ended lower after volatile trade as declines from automakers and crude refiners weighed. Benchmark Seoul composite fell 21.41 points or 1.06 percent to 1,989.11. Hyundai Motor declined 2.7 percent and Kia Motor fell 2.27 percent, while SK Innovation plunged 4.37 percent.