U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street on Wednesday, with futures for the S&P 500 up 1.3 percent, Dow Jones futures up 1.2 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures up 1.1 percent.

U.S. crude futures climbed by more than $1 a barrel to hit a new seven-month high above $71 on Wednesday, extending the previous session's gain of 2.8 percent after data showed a steep drop in U.S. crude inventories.

The dollar fell as investors shifted from the U.S. unit toward perceived riskier and higher-yielding assets on views the global economy and financial system are improving. The U.S. currency also lost support as investors pared back speculation of higher U.S. interest rates by year-end.

JPMorgan Securities said it continues to prefer investment banks over traditional credit banks globally, and raised its price targets on Goldman Sachs , Morgan Stanley and six others.

The auto industry will be in the spotlight after the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for the sale of Chrysler LLC to Italy's Fiat , while General Motors began to revamp its widely criticized board by naming former AT&T Inc chief executive Ed Whitacre as chairman.

The New York Times Co said on Tuesday that it does not plan to close The Boston Globe, a day after its largest union rejected a $10 million package of concessions aimed at cutting costs at the 137-year-old newspaper.

European financial group Dexia said it expected to close the sale of its U.S. insurer Financial Security Assurance Holdings, Ltd (FSA) on July 1, as key closing conditions for the sale had been met.

On the macro front, Japan's core private-sector machinery orders slid unexpectedly in April, suggesting firms are not confident that a bounce in industrial output and exports will be sustained enough to resume capital investment.

European stocks were up 1.5 percent on Wednesday, hitting their highest level in a week, as a sharp rise in oil and metal prices propelled heavyweight resource-related shares such as BP , Royal Dutch Shell and BHP Billiton .

Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 2.1 percent on Wednesday to come within a hair's breadth of the psychologically important mark of 10,000, as fresh funds flowed into the market on hopes for a recovery in the global economy. <.T>

The day's economic agenda includes the Federal Reserve's Beige Book of Economic Conditions at 2 p.m. (1400 GMT). Also, the Commerce Department April international trade is released at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT).

The Nasdaq rose on Tuesday after an improved outlook from Texas Instruments lifted technology stocks, but news that 10 big banks will repay TARP funds failed to stir investor enthusiasm.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dropped 1.43 points, or 0.02 percent, to 8,763.06. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gained 3.29 points, or 0.35 percent, to 942.43. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> climbed 17.73 points, or 0.96 percent, to 1,860.13.

Since reaching historical lows in early March, the Dow is up 35.4 percent and the S&P is up 41.3 percent. Year to date, the Dow is still down 0.2 percent and the S&P is up 4.3 percent.

(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by David Cowell)