Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange December 3, 2010. REUTERS

The U.S. stock index futures pointed to a lower open Tuesday ahead of the Census Bureau’s data on housing starts and building permits.

The futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 0.22 percent, the futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were down 0.15 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were down 0.22 percent.

The Census Bureau will publish Tuesday the housing starts, measuring the change in the annualized number of residential buildings that began construction each month. It is expected to show a rise to 840,000 in October, down from 872,000 in September.

The Census Bureau will also report the data on building permits, which measure the change in the number of new building permits issued by the government each month. The report is expected to show a rise to 865,000 in October, down from 890,000 in September.

On Monday, the U.S. stocks advanced as investor sentiment turned positive amid hopes that President Barack Obama and the congressional leaders were making advances in reaching conciliation to avert the fiscal cliff.

“While the details have yet to be discussed, both sides were reported to have made concessions that should make it easier to reach a deal to prevent the $500bn of tax hikes and spending cuts from taking place at the start of next year. What’s more, there seems to have been an agreement to undertake a more substantial overhauling of the tax code and entitlement spending programmes next year in order to place America on a sounder fiscal path over the medium-term,” Capital Economics said in a note.

Meanwhile, according to the data released Monday, the National Association of Realtors home sales report that measures the change in the annualized number of existing residential buildings sold during the previous month rose to 4.79 million units in October, up from 4.69 million units in September. There were some negative effects from Hurricane Sandy with sales in the Northeast declining while all other regions saw gains.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.65 percent, the S&P 500 Index was up 1.99 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 2.21 percent.

European markets fell Tuesday as investor confidence was weighed down after Moody's Investors Service downgraded the credit rating of France late Monday, citing the risk to the economic growth of the second-largest economy in Europe. Moody’s cut the credit rating of France to Aa1 from Aaa while maintaining a negative outlook for the economy in an indication that there is an urgent need for policy measures to revive the growth momentum.

London's FTSE 100 was down 20.37 points, Germany's DAX 30 index fell 8.77 points and France's CAC 40 dropped 10.74 points.

Asian stocks were mixed Tuesday as the Bank of Japan kept its key policy rate unchanged and refrained from announcing any monetary easing measures in spite of the political pressures to pursue aggressive stimulus steps for reviving the country’s economic growth momentum. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 23.74 points, Japan’s Nikkei was down 10.56 points and South Korea’s Kospi Composite Index gained 12.08 points.