U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Tuesday as investors remained wary of indexes at loft levels, although retail sales later in the morning could drive markets.

Wall Street was lifted on Monday by modest gains in the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, but the lowest volumes so far this year indicated an equities rally may be peaking after rising 13 percent since December.

Retail sales figures for January, due at 8:30 a.m. EST, may provide further direction for equities. Economists polled by Reuters expected a 0.6 percent rise in retail sales, matching December results.

Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners in New York, said he expected retail sales to confirm a picture of a steadily improving economy that has helped drive equities recently.

I don't expect the market to collapse and I don't expect the market to gain much strength today, but I do believe we could tack on another positive session, he said.

S&P 500 futures fell 1.1 points and were below 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 dropped 6 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures were off 1.5 points.

Other data due later Tuesday included import and export prices as well as the New York Fed's manufacturing index for February.

China reported 4.9 percent inflation, below forecasts, but price pressures excluding food were at their strongest level in at least a decade and could force the central bank to keep tightening monetary policy. Gold and copper prices gained, supported by a weaker dollar.

In company news, Deutsche Boerse and NYSE Euronext were expected to announce a deal to create the world's largest exchange operator, putting aside thorny political issues. NYSE Euronext shares were halted, pending news.

Host Hotels & Resorts Inc , the owner of over a hundred high-end hotels operated by such brand owners as Marriott International Inc , Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc reported a higher quarterly revenue. Marriott's shares gained 4.9 percent to $43 in premarket trading.

U.S. Steel Corp rose 2.7 percent to $61.95 premarket after Goldman Sachs raised its rating on the stock to buy from neutral, saying the company was well placed to gain from rising steel prices and demand.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)