Stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Tuesday as investors awaited data on housing and consumer confidence, two areas that are key in building on the still fragile economic recovery.

It would be Wall Street's seventh positive session in a row, but the market has mostly inched up in recent days, as investors turn their focus to 2010. The S&P 500 has shot up almost 25 percent for the year, but gained only 3 percent during the seven-day run.

Volume should be light through the shortened week, as many market players are on holiday between Christmas and New Year's.

A lot of people are calling this the Santa Claus rally. I think it is, but Santa Claus is on a diet this year, said Jamie Cox, managing partner at Harris Financial Group in Colonial Heights, Virginia, referring to the rally that is typical at the end of the year.

People are happy and delighted the worst is over, but they're still feeling a little bit of a hangover from all the negative sentiment this year.

S&P 500 futures rose 4.4 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 added 33 points, and the Nasdaq 100 futures gained 4.75 points.

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index for October will be released at 9:00 a.m. EST, with economists expecting a rise of 0.2 percent month-over-month, compared with a gain of 0.3 percent in the previous month, according to Reuters data. The consumer confidence number for December, due at 10:00 a.m. EST, is expected to rise to 52.5 from 49.5.

Stabilizing home prices are absolutely essential, said Cox, adding, The way out of this is through housing.

Morgan Stanley plans to overhaul pay plans for its top executives, deferring more compensation over time and benchmarking pay against rival firms, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing sources.

The Federal Reserve pressed ahead on Monday toward the creation of a new mechanism it says could be used to withdraw money from the banking system once policymakers decide to tighten monetary policy.

Shares of Imperial Sugar Co rose nearly 10 percent after the bell Monday after the company said it settled an insurance claim for a February 2008 industrial accident.

Stocks edged higher Monday as data indicating improved consumer spending lifted shares of retailers, offsetting a drop in airline shares amid security worries.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)