After Rallying to Multi-Year Highs, Stock Futures Take a Breather

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Stock-index futures were little changed on Wednesday following Wall Street's best performance of the year that sent stocks zooming to multi-year highs.

Today's Markets

As of 8:32 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 2 points to 13111, S&P 500 futures fell 0.75 point to 1390 and Nasdaq 100 futures slipped 2 points to 2692.

The Dow is at its highest level since 2007, the S&P is sitting at a 2008 high and the Nasdaq is trading at levels not seen since 2000. The markets have had a blockbuster year thus far, with the broad S&P 500 tacking on 11% and the technology-heavy Nasdaq surging 16.7%.

Analysts pinned the latest buying frenzy on renewed optimism about the state of the U.S. economy, the world's biggest, and a view that the financial sector is strengthening.

"There is this feeling overall that things are starting to get a little better," James Hughes, a senior market analyst at Alpari said in an interview with FOX Business.

The Federal Reserve on Tuesday held its monetary policy steady, but said it expects the unemployment rate to gradually decrease and the economy to continue expanding at a moderate gate. Another major driver of the big gains was optimism over the U.S. banking sector. After the close in New York, the Fed unveiled the results of its stress tests that showed 15 of 19 banks passing.

With the central bank's seal of approval, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), the biggest American bank by assets, Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), American Express (NYSE:AXP), U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB) and BB&T (NYSE:BBT) revealed plans to boost their dividends.

Investment banking giant Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and two smaller banks also said they are considering a dividend and stock buyback plan.

Still, not all news was positive on that front. Citigroup (NYSE:C), Ally Bank, Sun Trust (NYSE:STI) and MetLife Bank, a unit of insurance giant MetLife (NYSE:MET), all failed.

The U.S. dollar gained 0.03% against a basket of six world currencies tracked by the dollar index .

The economic calendar is fairly light on the day. A report from the Labor Department showed U.S. import prices rose by 0.4% in February, less than the 0.6% expected. Export prices also rose by 0.4%, higher than the 0.2% expected.

Energy futures were little changed ahead of fresh inventory data from the Energy Department slated for release at 10:30 a.m. ET. The benchmark crude oil contract traded in New York dipped 15 cents, or 0.13%, to $106.57 a barrel. Wholesale RBOB gasoline rose 0.21% to $3.362 a gallon.

In metals, gold slid $36.80, or 2.2%, to $1,657 a troy ounce. U.S. Treasury yields, which tightened considerably in the last session, continued rising. The 10-year note increased 0.071-percentage point to 2.195%.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips jumped 1.2%, the English FTSE 100 gained 0.42% to 5981 and the German DAX rallied 1.2% to 7078.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 leaped 1.5% to 10051 and the Chinese Hang Seng ticked lower by 0.15% to 21308.