NEW YORK - Wall Street returned to business Wednesday, even as New York City remained in clean-up mode two days after the battering from Hurricane Sandy.
U.S. stock futures were higher ahead of the open. Volume is expected to be very high as the NYSE, Nasdaq and other markets execute their first trades after two unscheduled days in the dark.
Wednesday will be particularly busy for investors since it also happens to be the last day of the month -- a time when traders, hedge funds and mutual funds often square up their positions.
And for some, the day also marks the last trading session of the fiscal year. It's a day when many mutual fund managers will try to offset their capital gains with their losses to minimize the distributions paid out to shareholders.
Home improvement stocks such as Home Depot and Lowe's will likely be big movers, as well as insurance stocks, such as Allstate, AIG and Hartford Financial. Retailers, airlines and hotels that have been affected by the storm will also be in focus.
Shares of Home Depot were up more than 1% in premarket trading.
World Markets: European stocks were mostly higher in morning trading. Britain's FTSE 100 was flat, the DAX in Germany increased 0.8% and France's CAC 40 jumped 0.6%.
Asian markets closed higher. The Shanghai Composite added 0.3%, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong and Japan's Nikkei increased 1%.
Economy: Investors will weigh data released during the markets' closure, none of which was revelatory. Fresh data on manufacturing and employment costs will be released Wednesday.
Investors will also be gearing up for the crucial October jobs report, which is scheduled to come out Friday. It will be the final reading on the health of the job market before the presidential election next week. While there has been some concern about the report being delayed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says it is working hard to stay on schedule.
Companies: The storm prompted many companies to postpone their quarterly earnings reports. But others, including Ford, Archer Daniels Midland and TD Ameritrade Holding Corp still issued their results so those stocks may be active Wednesday.
Shares of Ford were up almost 2% in premarket trading, a day after the company reported earnings that remained steady from a year earlier as strong results at home helped balance out the soaring losses in Europe.
Shares of ADM were slightly lower in premarket trading after the grain trader posted earnings that topped expectations but fell 60% from a year ago.
Hertz, Mastercard, Visa, First Solar and Metlife are among the firms on tap to post results Wednesday.
Early Wednesday, PVH Corp. the owner of the Calvin Klein brand, agreed to buy Warnaco Group in a deal worth $2.9 billion. Warnaco had licensed the Calvin Klein jeans brand from PVH, so the deal brings all Calvin Klein-branded apparel under one company's umbrella.
Currencies and commodities: The dollar rose against the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen.
Oil for December delivery rose 75 cents to $86.43 a barrel.
Gold futures for December delivery gained $7 to $1,719.10 an ounce.
Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury fell, raising the yield to 1.76%.