Stock futures trade higher ahead of Biden inauguration

Earnings reports will include results from UnitedHealth, Procter & Gamble and Morgan Stanley

U.S. equity futures were pointing to a higher open on Wall Street ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration as U.S. president.

The major futures indexes suggest a gain of 0.8% for the Nasdaq and a 0.2% rise for the Dow.

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Earnings season continues on Wednesday, with two Dow members – health care giants UnitedHealth Group and Procter & Gamble – reporting ahead of the opening bell. Investors will also pore over numbers from investment bank Morgan Stanley.

Wednesday afternoon will feature United Airlines Holdings, Discover Financial and Kinder Morgan.

In Europe, London's FTSE added 0.1%, Germany's DAX gained 0.6% and France's CAC rose 0.5%.

In Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 0.4%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.1% and China's Shanghai Composite rose 0.5%.

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Hopes were growing that Biden’s planned stimulus for the American economy -- as well as measures to curb the pandemic -- will boost regional markets.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
I:DJI DOW JONES AVERAGES 34077.63 -123.04 -0.36%
SP500 S&P 500 4163.26 -22.21 -0.53%
I:COMP n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 rose 30.66 points, or 0.8%, to 3,798.91, pulling to within 1% of its record high set earlier this month. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 116.26 points, or 0.4%, to 30,930.52. The Nasdaq composite gained 198.68 points, or 1.5%, to 13,197.18.

Markets have been rising on enthusiasm about a coming economic recovery as more people are inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines and Washington gets set to try for another round of economic stimulus.

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Janet Yellen, Biden’s nominee to be treasury secretary, told the Senate Finance Committee during her confirmation hearing that the incoming administration would focus on winning quick passage of its $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan.

The plan would include $1,400 cash payments for most Americans. Democrats were also pushing for faster rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, a higher minimum wage for workers and enhanced benefits for laid-off workers. Their hope is that such stimulus can carry the economy until later this year, when more widespread vaccinations get life returning to some semblance of normal.

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In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude added 67 cents to $53.65 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 51 cents to $56.41.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.