Stock Futures Climb; FOMC Minutes, China Data Eyed

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U.S. stock-index futures rose on Wednesday as traders mulled minutes showing members of the Federal Reserve's policy-setting board were divided on the benefits of quantitative easing and generally upbeat data from China.

Today's Markets

As of 9:13 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 42 points to 14652, S&P 500 futures gained 4.3 points to 1568 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 10.8 points to 2808.

Despite a choppy end of the week last week, the markets have managed to continue their move into uncharted territory. The Dow notched a fresh record close Tuesday, and the S&P 500 sits within less than 10 points of the all-time intraday high of 1576.09 it hit in October 2007.

The world economy came into focus once again.

Minutes from the last Federal Open Market Committee meeting showed members of the Federal Reserve’s policy-setting board generally saw the economic benefits of the central bank’s vast quantitative easing program outweighing the costs and risks, but said an “ongoing assessment of the benefits and costs was necessary.”

Additionally, the minutes showed “a few” participants were not convinced that asset purchases benefit the economy beyond a short-lived impact on the financial markets. The minutes were released hours earlier than expected after the central bank inadvertently emailed the often market-moving minutes to an email distribution list Tuesday.

Meanwhile, China saw its imports surge 14.1% in March on a year-to-year basis, compared to expectations of a 5.2% increase. Meanwhile, exports jumped 10% on the same basis -- just shy of the 10.5% increase economists forecast. That left the world's No. 2 economy with an $884 million trade deficit, a far cry from estimates of a $15.4 billion surplus.

Jian Chang, an economist at Barclays (NYSE:BCS), wrote in a note to clients that the data pointed to "a pickup in demand amid a gradual, albeit steady, recovery." Combined with a report Tuesday showing price pressure remains in check, the data have helped alleviate fears that the country could be in for a dramatic slowdown.

Elsewhere, oil prices were under modest pressure, and the volatile trade in gasoline continued. The benchmark U.S. crude oil contract fell 58 cents, or 0.62%, to $93.62 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline sold off by 1.3% to $2.905 a gallon. In metals, gold dropped $8.10, or 0.51%, to $1,578 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 surged 1.5% to 2633, the English FTSE 100 gained 0.84% to 6367 and the German DAX rallied 1.2% to 7726.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rose 0.73% to 13288 and the Chinese Hang Seng jumped 0.75% to 22035.