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Strong economic data from Europe and Asia sent U.S. stock-index futures climbing modestly on Wednesday, suggesting the Dow and S&P could open near record highs. 

Today's Markets 

As of 8:11 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 8 points to 14991, S&P 500 futures advanced 0.5 point to 1621 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 2.8 points to 2949.

The Dow closed north of the 15000 mark for the first time ever on Tuesday, with the S&P also notching a record high. Both market barometers are up more than 14% for the year. Trading volume has been light so far this week, with 3.3 billion shares being traded on the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday compared to this year's average of 3.5 billion. 

With the economic and corporate calendar fairly light on the day, traders were paying close attention to developments out of Asia and Europe. 

China saw its exports surge 14.7% in April on a year-to-year basis, with imports soaring 16.8%. That left the country's trade surplus at $18.2 billion, considerably better than expectations of $15.1 billion. The data helped ease concerns that the world's second-biggest economy is in for a soft landing. However, economists generally struck a cautious tone in regard to the report. 

"We believe the strong trade growth is not indicative of a growth recovery. Instead, it may have reflected continued capital inflows in April," Zhiwei Zhang, an economist at Nomura, a Japan-based bank wrote to clients of the report. 

German industrial production also came in considerably stronger than expectations. Europe's economic powerhouse saw its factory output rev up by 1.2% in March from April, compared to expectations of a 0.1% slump. 

Thomas Harjes, an economist at UK-based Barclays, wrote to clients that the data "point to stronger industrial activity ahead." Harjes noted, however, that the situation there remains fragile.

"The positive momentum is still tentative and the latest (April) survey results (IFO/PMIs) signal some downside risk," he wrote. 

Also on the economic front, Goldman Sachs Chief U.S. Economist Jan Hatzius weighed in on the state of the U.S. economy in a note to the investment-banking giant's clients late Tuesday. He said growth is stabilizing at a lower pace than it did in the first part of 2013, but then it is expected to heat up solidly next year. Hatzius also said he expects the Federal Reserve to begin tapering its vast quantitative easing program late this year, or early next year. 

Elsewhere, McDonald's (MCD), the world's biggest burger chain, said its same-store sales fell 0.6% in April, which was slightly steeper than the 0.48% Wall Street anticipated.  Delta Air Lines (DAL) initiated a quarterly dividend of six cents a share, and authorized a $500 million share buyback plan. 

In metals, gold rallied $14.40, or 1%, to $1,463 a troy ounce. Energy futures were lightly changed. U.S. crude oil rose 17 cents, or 0.18%, to $95.77 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.44% to $2.82 a gallon. 

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.41% to 2780, the English FTSE 100 gained 0.25% to 6573 and the German DAX jumped 0.63% to 8234.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rallied 0.74% to 14286 and the Chinese Hang Seng advanced 0.86% to 23244. 

 

Follow Adam Samson on Twitter @adamsamson.