Futures rise alongside Europe
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange October 4, 2011. Reuters

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a lower open on Tuesday as investors remained cautious ahead of the Census Bureau's new home sales data and the quarterly earnings reports by major corporations.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 0.26 percent, the futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were down 0.19 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were down 0.17 percent.

Investors are likely to focus on March new home sales data to be reported after the markets open Tuesday. The new home sales data measuring the annualized number of new single family homes that were sold during the previous month are expected to remain unchanged at 410,000 level in March compared to 411,000 in February.

“The March National Association of Home Builders survey started to show a slowdown in current single family new home sales for a second month, driving our belief that we may see a small pullback in the sales data. The survey indicated that expectations remain strong for growth in sales activity in the next six months,” Credit Agricole said in a note to investors.

Investors are also expected to focus on earnings reports as corporate majors including Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT), Xerox Corp. (NYSE:XRX), E.I. Du Pont De Nemours and Co. (NYSE:DD), AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) and Yum Brands, Inc. (NYSE: YUM) will report their quarterly earnings on Tuesday.

Shares of Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and Texas Instruments Inc (Nasdaq: TXN) will be in focus after their quarterly earnings were reported on late Monday. Netflix shares rallied nearly 25 percent in after-market trading on Monday after the company posted a better-than-expected gain in the number of U.S. subscribers for the first quarter, adding more than 2 million new customers.

U.S. stock markets ended on a positive note on Monday despite weaker-than-expected existing home sales data as gains in technology and energy shares offered support. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.14 percent, the S&P 500 Index was up 0.47 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.86 percent.

The National Association of Realtors' Home Sales report on Monday showed that the change in the annualized number of existing residential buildings sold during the previous month declined to 4.92 million units in March from a downwardly revised 4.95 million in February while economists expected sales to rise to 5.01 million units.

European stock markets were trading higher with Germany's DAX30 down 0.12 percent, France's CAC 40 gaining 0.86 percent and London's FTSE 100 advancing 0.24 percent.

Asian stock markets declined on Tuesday as sentiment turned negative after a preliminary reading of the HSBC Flash Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) showed that Chinese manufacturing activity expanded at a slower pace in April. The HSBC Flash PMI, a measure of the nation-wide manufacturing, declined to 50.5 in April, compared with 51.6 in March, and it also missed economists’ estimate of 51.5, raising concerns of weakness in the world's second-largest economy.

Japanese Nikkei declined 0.29 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng plunged 1.08 percent and Chinese Shanghai Composite slumped 2.57 percent, while South Korea’s KOSPI Composite slipped 0.40 percent and India’s BSE Sensex declined 0.59 percent.