Futures climb as banking crisis fears abate

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Washington-(Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures climbed on Wednesday as easing worries about a banking crisis lifted risk sentiment, while investors awaited economic data to assess the Federal Reserve's monetary policy path.

Market jitters about stress in the banking system have been soothed in recent days by a U.S. regulator- backed sale of failed lender Silicon Valley Bank's assets as well as few signs of further trouble in the sector since the buyout deal.

U.S. Treasury yields were largely unchanged on Wednesday after staging a rebound in the last few sessions amid rising expectations that the Federal Reserve would hike rates at its next meeting instead of pausing given ebbing banking concerns.

Major technology and growth stocks such as Microsoft Corp, Alphabet and Meta Platforms rose between 0.8% and 1.5% in premarket trading, boosting futures tracking the tech-heavy Nasdaq.

"With banking worries put on the back burner for now, with no further stresses in the system emerging, investors’ appetite for a bit more risk is returning," said Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"There are growing expectations that the Federal Reserve may hike interest rates again at the next meeting, but it’s still believed to be close to the summit of peak rates, particularly as banking lending is expected to tighten, causing a drag on the economy."

U.S.-listed shares of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd fell 1.6% before the bell, a day after touching an over one-month high on the internet giant's revamp and listing plan, which fuelled optimism that Beijing's crackdown on the tech sector may be ending.

Traders' bets are tilted towards a rate pause by the Fed in May, with odds of a 25 basis point hike at 42%, according to CME Group's Fedwatch tool. 

Michael Barr, the Fed's vice chairman for supervision, will testify before Congress for the second day after he criticized SVB's risk management on Tuesday during the first congressional hearing since the sudden collapse of the regional lender earlier in March.

On the economic data calendar, a report on pending home sales is due later in the day. A key inflation reading expected at the end of the week will provide more clues on the Fed's monetary tightening plans.

At 4:50 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 221 points, or 0.68%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 32.75 points, or 0.82%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 103.5 points, or 0.81%.

Among major stock moves, Micron Technology Inc advanced 2.4% after the chipmaker forecast a boost to sales in 2025 from artificial intelligence and raised its headcount reduction target.

Lululemon Athletica Inc jumped about 15% after forecasting annual sales and profit above estimates on resilient demand.

Lucid Group Inc gained 1.6% on plans to lay off about 18% of its workforce.