US stocks seen higher ahead of latest labor market report
U.S. stock index futures pointed to a flat open on Tuesday, ahead of the publication of the JOLTS jobs openings report.
The report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics looks at openings in October, and will be out at 10 a.m. ET. It has been highlighted by upcoming Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen as an important supplement to the more traditional labor market indicators.
The report follows last Friday's better-than-expected nonfarm payrolls number for November, which was nonetheless viewed as insufficiently strong to incite the Fed to start tapering its massive bond purchases before the New Year.
(CNBC explains: Tapering)
Late on Monday however, St. Louis President James Bullard, a voting member of the central bank's policy committee, said the Fed could slightly reduce its buying program this month in response to the improved labor market.
Meanwhile, Dallas President Richard Fisher said that rising long-term Treasury yields suggested investors were expecting a reduction in stimulus. The speeches came before officials go into their "blackout" period ahead of the two-day Fed policy meeting which starts next Tuesday.
"We feel that in 2014, the Fed is likely to have to walk a fine line between fast tapering — likely causing pockets of economic and financial market weakness — and slower tapering — likely contributing towards bubbles. Overall, we think the Fed, along with other central banks, will be forced to maintain a high level of bond buying in 2014," said Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid and Anthony Ip in a morning research note.
U.S. small business optimism and wholesale inventories are the other major data releases due Tuesday, as well as the federal budget for November.
In addition, financial regulators are due to announce details of the long-awaited Volcker rule to curb proprietary trading, as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law.
(CNBC explains: Volcker Rule)
Outside of the U.S., data released on Tuesday showed Chinese retail sales in November beat market estimates, while industrial output matched expectations. The data follows stronger-than-expected trade figures released at the weekend, and confirmed hopes that the world's second-largest economy can sustain its upward trend.
(Read more: Track Asian markets live with CNBC)
—By CNBC's Katy Barnato