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Futures Edge Lower Ahead of Earnings Season

U.S. stock index futures ticked lower Tuesday as investors await the start of the fourth-quarter earnings season, which will kick off with Dow component Alcoa after the closing bell.

S&P 500 companies are expected to post earnings growth of 2.8 percent for the fourth quarter, up from the barely positive 0.1 percent growth in the third quarter, according to Thomson Reuters.

Alcoa is expected to post earnings of 6 cents a share on revenue of $5.6 billion, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

For-profit education company Apollo Group is also expected to post earnings after the closing bell.

Monsanto rallied after the agricultural biotechnology company boosted its earnings outlook for fiscal 2013 and handed in better-than-expected quarterly results.

Yum Brands slipped after the fast food company reported that its China sales would be down more than expected due to a government review of the country's poultry supply.

Sears Holdings jumped following news that CEO Louis D'Ambrosio will step down and will be replaced by Chairman Edward Lampert.

The government is scheduled to auction $32 billion in 3-year notes with the results available shortly after 1pm ET.

On the economic front, small business sentiment was mostly unchanged in December, as owners expect business conditions to deteriorate over the next six months, according to a National Federation of Independent Business survey. The December reading was the second lowest since March 2010.

—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)

Coming Up This Week:

TUESDAY: 3-yr note auction, consumer credit, International Consumer Electronics Show; Earnings from Alcoa, Apollo Group
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications, oil inventories, 10-yr note auction; Earnings from Constellation Brands, PriceSmart
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, wholesale trade, natural gas inventories, Fed's George speaks, 30-yr bond auction, Fed's Bullard speaks, Fed's balance sheet, money supply, Fed's Kocherlakota speaks, Herbalife analysts day, videogame sales data release; Earnings from Chevron (interim report), Ruby Tuesday
FRIDAY: International trade, import and export prices, Fed's Plosser speaks, Treasury budget, Best Buy to report holiday sales; Earnings from Wells Fargo

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