Stock index futures advanced Wednesday on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange despite weakness in the dollar that would ordinarily have pulled the stock futures lower, analysts said.
On other markets, gold advanced while silver declined; livestock and meat futures were mostly higher; grains and soybeans were mixed; and energy futures were near unchanged.
The Merc's popular Standard & Poor's 500 stock-index futures market performed unusually well, considering the dollar's declines against most foreign currencies and the stock market's erratic behavior, analysts said.
The Federal Reserve Board's index measuring the value of the dollar against 10 other currencies was 93.52 Wednesday, off 1.31 points or 1.38% from Tuesday's 94.83.
The Dow Jones industrial average ended the day nearly unchanged after a volatile session that saw it down as much as 63 points and up as much as 35. It closed up just 0.33 points at 1,846.82.
But S&P 500 futures settled 2.40 points to 2.65 points higher, with the contract for delivery in December at 231.25.
The market began rallying on strong institutional buying and short covering after an early-morning selloff linked to lower stock prices overseas, said Leigh Stevens, a strategist in New York with Paine Webber Jackson & Curtis Inc.
Short covering is buying by traders who had sold borrowed contracts earlier because they expected prices to fall.
Stevens said the dollar's weakness had little effect on stock futures because the stock market's Oct. 19 collapse "was so extreme it discounted a lot of negative expectations about what's going to happen to the dollar."
Gold futures advanced on the Commodity Exchange in New York in response to the weaker dollar, said Howard Levine, an analyst in New York with Shearson Lehman Bros.
Silver behaved like an industrial metal, retreating along with platinum and palladium futures, Levine said.
Gold settled $1.70 to $2.30 higher, with October at $477.50 an ounce; silver was 0.90 cent to 1 cent lower, with October at $7.346 an ounce.
On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, cattle futures rose sharply due to higher cash prices and budding optimism about the stock market, analysts said.
"With the stock market wrestling back and forth and and ending near unchanged, it gave people confidence that maybe the big washout in the cattle market was over with," said Charlie Richardson, an analyst in Denver with Lind-Waldock & Co.
Most pork futures advanced slightly on carryover buying from the cattle pit, analysts said.
Live cattle settled unchanged to 0.87 cent higher, with December at 63.85 cents a pound; feeder cattle were 0.27 to 0.95 cent higher, with October at 73.57 cents a pound; live hogs were 0.05 cent lower to 0.40 cent higher, with December at 43.72 cents a pound; frozen pork bellies were 0.33 cent lower to 0.30 cent higher, with February at 56.10 cents a pound.
Grain and soybean prices on the Chicago Board of Trade retreated, with the stock market in the morning, then changed little during the day as many traders took to the sidelines while stock prices fluctuated wildly, analysts said.
"The (grain) market was acting uncertain," said Walter Spilka, an analyst in New York with Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co. "Outside influences, which have been playing more of role in the grain markets, have been very extreme, to say the least."