Stock index futures advanced on Tuesday ahead of data that could provide clues on the level of consumer spending and before a policy announcement from the Federal Reserve.

The central bank is expected to hold steady on monetary policy when it concludes its one-day meeting, acknowledging a mildly brighter economic outlook while refraining from any suggestion that further easing is now off the table.

Markets were unnerved recently after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke stopped short of giving a strong signal of more economic stimulus during congressional testimony.

Before the Fed statement, investors will look to February retail sales, due at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT), with economists in a Reuters survey expecting a 1.0 percent month-over-month rise compared with a 0.4 percent increase in January. Excluding automobiles, sales are expected to rise 0.7 percent, a repeat of the January increase.

Positive developments in Europe also helped boost sentiment, after euro-zone finance ministers gave final approval to a second bailout for Greece and data in Germany showed analyst and investor sentiment rose significantly more than expected in March.

S&P 500 futures rose 8.1 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 58 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 15.25points.

Pfizer Inc
, the world's largest drugmaker, has scrapped a deal to sell insulin products made by Biocon Ltd , leaving India's biggest biotech company without a partner to sell the drugs in key global markets such as the United States.

Yahoo Inc sued Facebook Inc over 10 patents that include methods and systems for advertising on the Web, opening a major legal battle among big technology companies in social media.

European equities extended gains to more than 1 percent, hitting session highs after stronger-than-expected German data boosted confidence in the health of the global economy. <.EU>

Asian equities hit a one-week high, holding firm in the wake of recent signs of improvement in the economy, while the yen rose after the Bank of Japan kept monetary policy steady.

(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)