In Europe, leaders will meet to consider strengthening the bailout fund to support bonds sold by Greece and other countries, among other moves. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told her parliament that the world is waiting for them and Europe to calm the crisis that has lasted two years. Worries that a European country may default on its bonds have led to big swings in global stocks.
Besides improvement from Europe, U.S. investors and consumers also need to see more strength domestically before they feel more confident, said Ann Miletti, a senior portfolio manager with Wells Capital Management. "We look at Europe and blame them for a lot of problems, but a lot of the uncertainty has really been U.S.-driven," she said.
About 45 minutes ahead of the opening, Dow Jones industrial average futures are up 68, or 0.6 percent, to 11,730. S&P 500 futures are up 7, or 0.6 percent, to 1,232. Nasdaq 100 futures are up 12, or 0.5 percent, to 2,334.
Boeing rose 3.1 percent in premarket dealings after it reported a bigger profit for its latest quarter than analysts expected. It also raised its forecast for 2011 earnings.
Sprint Nextel Corp. rose 3.7 percent ahead of the bell after the nation's No. 3 wireless carrier reported its smallest quarterly loss in four years. The results were better than analysts expected.
Corning rose 7.1 percent in premarket trading after its profit rose 3 percent last quarter on stronger sales of glass for flat-panel televisions. Both its earnings and revenue beat analysts' expectations.
More encouraging news came from a government report that showed companies increased their orders for heavy machinery and other long-lasting manufactured goods last month. Orders for aircraft and other transportation equipment were weak. But excluding them, business investment in core capital goods rose at their fastest rate in six months.
Amazon.com Inc. fell 12.1 percent after it said late Tuesday that its third-quarter profit dropped 73 percent. The Internet retailer was hurt by higher costs it's incurred to expand.
Stocks fell Tuesday for the first time in four days following disappointing reports on consumer confidence and corporate earnings. Shoppers are feeling at their least confident since March 2009, and manufacturing giant 3M cut its earnings expectations for the year.