Stock futures flat as retail sales data eyed

By @ibtimes on

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 the end of 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 were flat but 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 rose 11 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 0.75 point.

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 that could challenge a successful completion.

General Motors Co will add over 20 new and upgraded models in China, its chief executive said, as it looked to use its leading position in the world's biggest car market to reclaim the No. 1 spot from Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T>.

Earnings season is winding down, but some big names are still due to report, include Dell Inc . Analysts predicted the computer maker will show earnings of 37 cents per share, up from 28 cents a year ago.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of top shares edged up 0.2 percent in early trade, as upbeat earnings companies including British lender Barclays Plc and French food group Danone SA helped underpin investor confidence.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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