Stock futures indicated Wall Street would open with modest gains on Tuesday, Jan. 2, while European stocks were firmly in the red as a slumping U.S. dollar lifted the value of regional currencies and pressured equities amid firming global metals prices and renewed signs of economic strengthening.

Early indications suggested stocks would continue their record run early into the new year as firms count the benefits of Republican-passed tax cuts and take advantage of the dollar's worst run slump 2003, but sentiment has been fading for much of the European session.

The dollar index, a measure of the greenback's strength against a basket of six global currencies, was marked at 91.86, the lowest since mid-September and more than 1.5% from the level it was trading at just prior to the Christmas break.

Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 43 points, or 0.17%, while those linked to the S&P 500 rose 6.8 points ahead of the opening bell on Tuesday.

Europe's Stoxx 600 index, the broadest measure of regional shares, fell 0.5% in Frankfurt while benchmarks around the region slipped as the euro approached a four-month high against the dollar and changed hands at 1.2060. 

Wall Street returns to work.
Wall Street returns to work.

Overnight in Asia, stocks were broadly positive after a stronger-than-expected reading for manufacturing activity around the region, including China, where the Caixin/Markit Manufacturing PMI rose to a four-month high of 51.5.

The MSCI Asia ex-Japan index gained 0.16% into the close of the session, thanks in part to stronger metals prices, including gold, which traded past $1,300, and copper, which held at a four-year high of $7,200 per tonne. Markets in Japan were closed for both the day and the remainder of the week owing to a series of national holidays.

Global oil prices also extended gains into the first trading day of the new year, with West Texas Intermediate crude futures contracts hitting the highest levels since July 2015 in overnight dealing as investors watched developments in Iran following four days of protests by anti-government demonstrators.

Brent futures for March delivery rose slightly to $66.89 a barrel while WTI contracts for the same month gained 0.07% to $60.46 a barrel.

Natural gas prices rose to the highest levels in nearly a month Tuesday as Americans braced for another record-breaking day of low temperatures amid one of the worst cold snaps in decades.

The U.S. National Weather Service has warned of "dangerously cold wind chills" in certain parts of the east coast and mid-west this week as a front continues to ice cities from Maine to Texas, bringing record-low temperatures and a surge in heating fuel demand.

Natural gas futures for February delivery traded more than 4% higher than their closing prices on Friday, taking benchmark prices to $3.09 per British Thermal Unit, the highest since Dec. 4.

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