Stock futures pointed to a higher open on Wednesday as the latest offers in ongoing U.S. budget negotiations underlined hopes for a deal, while technology shares were lifted by strong results from Oracle.
The S&P 500 is on track to extend its best two-day run in a month, a sign that investors are looking past the "fiscal cliff," a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts many fear could push the economy into recession if they take effect next year.
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President Barack Obama's most recent offer to Republicans in the ongoing fiscal talks made concessions on taxes and social programs spending, amid concerns from Senate Democrats. House Speaker John Boehner said he remained hopeful about an agreement, though the offer was "not there yet." [ID:nL1E8NI331]
"Both Obama and Boehner have been making concessions, suggesting a deal will get done before the deadline, resulting in an acceleration in stock buying," said Adam Sarhan, chief executive of Sarhan Capital in New York.
Tech shares will be in focus a day after Oracle Corp reported earnings that beat expectations on strong software sales growth. Shares rose 2.7 percent to $33.78 in premarket trading.
FedEx Corp reported second-quarter revenue that beat expectations, but said its earnings in the quarter had been impacted by Superstorm Sandy. Shares rose 1.3 percent to $93.53 before the bell.
S&P 500 futures rose 3.9 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 37 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 9 points.
The S&P has gained 2.3 percent over the past two sessions, the first time it has notched two straight days of 1 percent gains since late July. Markets have been supported by any indication agreement might be reached, with banks and energy shares- groups that outperform during periods of economic expansion - leading gains.
"We've been breaking above levels of resistance, including the 50-day moving average and the November high, so from a technical standpoint we're seeing a lot of improvement," Sarhan said. "We're set up for a strong 2013."
Trading volume has been light ahead of the holidays and as some caution remains over the cliff. Equities have struggled to gain ground in recent weeks amid signs there was little room for compromise between the two political parties.
Knight Capital Group Inc climbed 4.1 percent to $76.68 in premarket after it agreed to be bought by Getco Holdings in a deal valued at $1.4 billion. The stock, which was devastated by a near-fatal trading error in August, remains down about 76 percent so far this year.
General Mills Inc reported earnings that beat expectations and raised its full-year profit view, citing a recent acquisition which lifted sales. Shares gained 1.5 percent to $42.40 in premarket trading.
Industrial machinery maker SPX Corp is closing in on a roughly $4.2 billion deal to buy rival Gardner Denver Inc , as it makes progress in securing financing, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. Gardner shares rose 4.1 percent before the bell to $76.68.
U.S. housing starts fell 3 percent in November, impacted by Superstorm Sandy. Stock index futures barely reacted to the data.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)