"The news is basically pretty good this morning even though the threat of civil war in the Ukraine continues," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital. "The markets are really focusing on the economic data and earnings. The big news of the day is China."
China's economy grew at an annual rate of 7.4% in the first quarter, compared to the same period last year. While the world's second-biggest economy continues to slow, the figure was slightly stronger than most economists were expecting.
"The news out of China, although weak, is not at a point where the markets would worry about a hard landing and dragging the rest of the global economy with it," said Cardillo.
Earnings season is in full swing, with Google(GOOGL), IBM(IBM) and American Express(AXP) reporting in the afternoon. Several banks report this morning.
Bank of America(BAC) shares rose in premarket trading after reporting a quarterly loss stemming from its $6 billion in litigation expenses from a settlement with the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The settlement was related to the bank misrepresenting risky mortgage securities that contributed to the housing crisis.
PNC(PNC) reported, before the bell, that quarterly net income gained year-to-year, "driven by loan and deposit growth, well-controlled expenses and credit quality improvement as well as seasonal trends."
Credit Suisse(CS) released quarterly results showing profit dropped by 34% compared to last year. Investors were unimpressed by the performance and shares fell in Zurich.
But shares in London-traded Burberry(BBRYF) were outpacing the broader European market after the latest set of earnings met market expectations.
Aside from earnings, Chinese Internet giant Weibo is expected to price its initial public offering after the closing bell on Wednesday. The social media powerhouse, sometimes referred to as China's Twitter, is expected to sell about $380 million in stock, putting its value at about $4 billion. This is the latest in a string of IPOs in the U.S.
Investors will also be watching the latest Federal Reserve developments Wednesday.
Fed chief Janet Yellen is scheduled to speak at the Economic Club of New York. The central bank will also release its latest Beige Book, a survey of economic conditions, at 2 p.m. ET. The prior release, in March, noted how the cold winter hit the economy.
Meanwhile, at 8:30 a.m., the U.S. government will release data on the number of housing starts and building permits issued in March, giving investors insight into the health of the U.S. housing market.
U.S. stocks finished higher Tuesday. The Dow Jones industrial averageclosed up for its second consecutive day, and also for its fifth consecutive Tuesday of gains.Stock markets have been highly volatile over the last few weeks.
European markets were all rising in midday trading. The biggest gainer was the Dax index in Germany, which was up by 1%. London's main index was pushing up by 0.4%, with investors cheering data showing the U.K. unemployment rate fell to 6.9%.