U.S. stock-index futures pointed to a timid Wall Street open on Tuesday, as caution set in ahead of Friday's non-farm payrolls jobs report for November and its potential impact on Federal Reserve tapering.
Ahead of the jobs report, investors will eye a few more economic reports on Tuesday, including auto sales for November and the IBD/TIPP economic optimism survey for December. These follow Monday's better-than-expected manufacturing (ISM) report which failed to lift stocks weighed down by mixed indicators on the holiday shopping season.
The first of the Detroit automakers to report November sales, Chrysler Group reported U.S. vehicle sales rose 16 percent from the year-ago number, beating Wall Street's expectations. General Motors and Ford report later in the day.
"The market has been a little confused over the last 24 hours, not helped by the stronger than expected ISM (57.3 versus 55.1) providing further fuel to the December taper flame… So with the recent strength in the data we're building up to a fascinating payrolls this Friday and one that could shape the early part of 2014," said Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid and Anthony Ip in an early morning research note.
No major U.S. companies are due to report on Tuesday before Wall Street opens, although Bank of Montreal reported its quarterly earnings rose 1 percent, beating estimates. Other companies worth a watch include Rio Tinto, which fell 1.5 percent in early U.K. trade after announcing that capital spending may halve by 2015.
European indexes were largely negative in early trade on Tuesday, after a weak lead from the U.S. and Asia.
Japanese shares hit a six-year closing high however, thanks to supportive comments from the Bank of Japan. Haruhiko Kuroda, head of the central bank, fueled speculation of further Japanese stimulus after saying "we are ready to adjust monetary policy without hesitation if risks materialize" at a conference late on Monday.
—By CNBC's Katy Barnato