By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch
LONDON (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures traded higher Wednesday ahead of data on durable-goods orders as the debate on whether the economic rebound is set to extend or abruptly end continues.
S&P 500 futures rose 9.6 points to 1,082.60 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 15.5 points to 1,831.00. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 78 points.
Dow mostly recovers from big drop
The stock market pares its losses but stays on track for a decline fueled by European worries. Plus, WSJ's Brett Arends says investors should ignore the panic and look for solid value; Pyongyang says it will "totally freeze" its relations with South Korea; and how to avoid rip-offs when buying tickets to concerts.
U.S. stocks ended with mild losses Tuesday, as worries over Korea tensions and Spanish bank health that had sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average down as much as 293 points were seemingly quelled by the end of the day, with the Dow finishing just 22 points in the red and the S&P 500 posting modest gains.
Data showing improving U.S. consumer confidence helped stem the overseas worries, and on the technical side, the S&P 500 only briefly traded below February lows.
The wild moves over the last two sessions -- a strong start and a weak finish Monday, and a weak start and a strong finish Tuesday -- underscore the lack of conviction in markets, strategists said.
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"We often see a decent rebound after a strong sell-off, as risk reduction flows fade and sidelined buyers come in, but it is not clear whether we are there yet," said strategists from Danske Bank. "Event risk is also still high in these fragile markets."
That bounce was seen in overseas markets as well on Wednesday, with the Kospi climbing 1.4% in Seoul and the FTSE 100 up 2.1% in early afternoon London trade.
Durable-goods orders and new-home sales figures highlight Wednesday's economic releases.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development hiked its global and U.S. GDP estimates for 2010 and 2011, and the U.S. Treasury will be auctioning $40 billion of five-year notes.
Speaking from Tokyo, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke argued against proposed legislation that would subject the central bank to more scrutiny.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner continues his overseas tour with a meeting with Britain's new Chancellor, George Osborne.
Of companies in the spotlight, luxury builder Toll Brothers /quotes/comstock/13*!tol/quotes/nls/tol (TOL 20.61, +0.09, +0.44%) narrowed its quarterly loss. Toll shares rose 3.6% in premarket trade.
BP /quotes/comstock/13*!bp/quotes/nls/bp (BP 42.56, +0.70, +1.67%) is due to attempt its "top-kill" operation to stem the flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. BP said the operation may take two days.
Apple Inc.'s /quotes/comstock/15*!aapl/quotes/nls/aapl (AAPL 245.22, -1.54, -0.62%) music-business practices are the subject of an informal inquiry by the U.S. Justice Department, The New York Times reported Wednesday. Specifically, the agency is looking at whether the Cupertino, Calif., technology giant, which runs the hugely popular iTunes music library, pressured music publishers not to give Amazon one day of exclusive access to music that's about to be released so the Seattle online retailer /quotes/comstock/15*!amzn/quotes/nls/amzn (AMZN 124.86, +2.74, +2.24%) could create marketing promotions around that music, the Times reported.
Oil futures recaptured the $70-a-barrel mark, and metals futures gained as well.
The euro /quotes/comstock/21o!x:seurusd (CUR_EURUSD 1.2260, -0.0112, -0.9053%) slipped 0.2% to $1.2323.
Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch's London bureau chief.