Stock Futures Inch Higher on Goods Report

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The better-than-expected report on U.S. durable goods lifted stock-index futures slightly into the green, but traders were still cautious to make bets with the European Union summit looming.

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Today's Markets

As of 8:37 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 8 points to 12492, S&P 500 futures gained 2.3 points to 1318 and Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 3 points to 2551.

Trading desks have been fixated on the eurozone debt crisis, watching news break from across the 17-member currency bloc endlessly.

Italy, which is the bloc's third-biggest economy, was forced to pay the highest rate to borrow for six months since December at an auction on Wednesday. This comes on the heels of a downgrade on Tuesday by Egan-Jones of Germany's credit rating, both somber reminders that the crisis has moved from the periphery to Europe's core.

European Union leaders are set to meet on Thursday and Friday to discuss the potential of creating a banking union that may help instill confidence in European banks. There has also been talk for months of a tighter fiscal union. However, all of these measures require wide-ranging approval, which has been particularly difficult to garner from Germany -- the eurozone's paymaster.

"A few brave souls have edged into the market this morning, but enthusiasm is distinctly lacking, as most traders opt to hold their ground and wait to see what decisions, if any, emerge from the eurozone summit this week," Chris Beauchamp a market analyst at IG Index in London wrote in an e-mail.

On the U.S. front, the Commerce Department reported orders for durable goods in May rose 1.1%, beating expectations of a rise of 0.4%. The report is a lagging indicator, but it includes a large swath of U.S. manufacturing, from refrigerators to airplanes.

A report due later in the morning is expected to show pending home sales having risen 1% in May from the month before. Two reports on the housing market released this week have come in better than expected, a rare brightspot for the struggling sector.

In corporate news, Qatar's sovereign wealth fund is pushing commodities trader Glencore to sweeten its $26 billion bid for miner Xstrata, threatening to scuttle the big merger at the last minute. The fund has reportedly become Xstrata's second-biggest shareholder, meaning its seal of approval will likely be necessary to close the deal.

Oil futures were little changed as traders awaited the weekly inventory report from the Energy Department. The benchmark contract fell 10 cents, or 0.13%, to $79.26 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline rose 0.02% to $2.65 a gallon.

In metals, gold dropped $6.90, or 0.43%, to $1,568 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.55% to 2140, the English FTSE 100 gained 0.55% to 5467 and the German DAX rose 0.26% to 6152.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 jumped 0.77% to 8730 and the Chinese Hang Seng rallied 1% to 19177.