U.S. Futures Extend Euro Gains; S&P Eyes All-Time High

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U.S. stock-index futures pointed solidly higher Tuesday, with the broad S&P 500 poised to move within striking distance of its record intraday high, as traders grew slightly more optimistic on the situation in the eurozone.

Today's Markets 

As of 8:18 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures jumped 60 points to 14558, S&P 500 futures climbed 6.5 points to 1563 and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 17.3 points to 2806.

Wall Street kicked off the second quarter on a fairly weak note Monday, with the markets posting mild losses. However, sentiment across global trading desks brightened Tuesday amid relatively upbeat data from the embattled eurozone.

Markit's final eurozone PMI reading clocked in at 46.8 for March, just slightly higher than a flash estimate of 46.6, but lower than 47.9 from the month before. The data suggest the 17-member currency bloc's manufacturing sector contracted at the swiftest pace in three months in March. Germany, the bloc's biggest economy, saw its PMI come in at 49 -- a two-month low -- but right on the border of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

"The surveys paint a very disappointing picture across the region, with all countries either seeing sharper rates of decline or – in the cases of Germany and Ireland – sliding back into contraction," Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, wrote in a report.

While the numbers point to ongoing struggles in the eurozone, Michael Block, chief equity strategist at Phoenix Partners Group, said European markets actually reacted positively to them.

There is a "sense of relief" that the near collapse of the banking system in Cyprus didn't completely stunt business activity, he said. Block also said the situation on the island nation appears to be "not so bad" after all.

Indeed, the benchmark index there sold off by a relatively modest 2.6% in its first trading day since the country's bailout by international lenders.

On the U.S. front, the docket of data was fairly light. A report due at 10:00 a.m. ET from the Commerce Department is forecast to show factory orders jumping 2.9% in February from January.

Meanwhile, in corporate news, Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) cut Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) from its conviction buy list, although kept a "buy" rating on the stock, according to several media reports. Automakers also report their monthly sales on the day.

Elsewhere, energy futures were little changed. The benchmark crude oil contract traded in New York rose 11 cents, or 0.11%, to $97.17 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.35% to $3.091 a gallon. In metals, gold slumped $4.10, or 0.26%, to $1,597 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 jumped 1.1% to 2653, the English FTSE 100 rallied 1.1% to 6480 and the German DAX soared 1.2% to 7890.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 sold off 1.1% to 12003 and the Chinese Hang Seng rose 0.31% to 22368.