Wall Street looked set to rise at the open on Wednesday as investors were encouraged by data showing signs the economic downturn was moderating, and by positive comments from President Barack Obama.

Government data showed U.S. orders for long-lasting manufactured goods unexpectedly rebounded in February, rising for the first time in seven months.

A report on U.S. new home sales for February due later in the morning could provide additional support, after recent signs of stabilization in the housing market.

We've seen a variety of different data points that suggest that though we're not completely done with the deterioration in the overall economy, we're clearly seeing signs of a thaw, said Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Equity Markets in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Obama's prime-time news conference on Tuesday night helped the positive tone after he said he was seeing some progress in efforts to pull the economy out of crisis.

S&P 500 futures rose 4.10 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 climbed 34 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 5.75 points.

Adding to optimism, data showed U.S. mortgage applications jumped last week as record low interest rates spurred a surge in demand to refinance home loans.

Stocks have rallied in recent weeks, including a big run-up on Monday, as policy makers unveiled moves aimed at shoring up the economy and some major banks said they were profitable in the early part of the year.

Taking everything into consideration, the market seems to want to extend the rally that began on Monday, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners in New York, though gains could be dampened by profit taking, as in the previous session.

On Tuesday, stocks fell as investors paused to reassess the likely success of the government's latest plans to clean up bank balance sheets and revive the ailing financial system.

Shares of banks rose before the opening bell, with Bank of America up 5.1 percent at $7.59 and JPMorgan adding 2.8 percent to $27.14.

Obama will meet with about a dozen top bank chief executives on Friday, including executives from JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup , sources familiar with the matter said.

The energy sector could weigh on trading, however, as the price of oil slipped, affecting shares in that sector, with New York front-month crude trading down 2.5 percent at $52.61 a barrel.

(Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by James Dalgleish)