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Stock Futures Hold Gains After Retail Sales Report

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open for Wall Street on Tuesday, on positive investor sentiment ahead of the Fed’s latest statement on interest rates and the U.S. economy.

That view was bolstered by the latest retail sales report, which showed retail sales rose 1.1 percent, its biggest gain in five months, as consumers purchased motor vehicles and other goods despite higher gasoline prices.

Federal Reserve policymakers will hold a one-day meeting and release their statement at approximately 2:15 p.m. New York time. Investors expect the Fed to acknowledge a slight upturn in economic data and hold interest rates steady.

At its previous meeting in January, the Fed decided to maintain rates at a record low of between 0 percent and 0.25 percent, and to continue with its bond-buying stimulus program, saying economic conditions were likely to require the rate to be low until late 2014 at the earliest.

At 10:00 a.m., the government will release January business inventories, which economists polled by Briefing.com see rising 0.6 percent, following December’s 0.4 percent increase. At the same time, the Labor Department will release its “Job Openings and Labor Turnover” report.

The Treasury is set to sell $21 billion in 10-year bond notes on Tuesday, with the results available shortly after 1:00 p.m.

The earnings calendar is light, with no major companies scheduled to report quarterly numbers.

Apple shares are set to open slightly higher after Jefferies & Co. raised their earnings estimates and price target for the tech giant, citing an expectation that 2012 sales for the iPhone will be higher. It also says concerns being raised about the new iPad are overdone.

Acquisitions also boosted the shares of both Midas and Great Wolf . Midas will be taken private by TBC for $11.50 a share in cash. Shares of the automotive services provider closed Monday at $8.99.

Great Wolf, an indoor waterpark operator, also is being acquired by an affiliate of private equity firm Apollo Global $5.00 per share in cash, compared to Monday's close of $4.19.

European shares rose in early trade as investors positioned themselves for solid economic data from the U.S.

US Airways shares were trading higher before the bell. The airline has registered several internet domain names that hint of a possible transaction involving bankrupt American Airlines parent AMR. In a statement to CNBC, US Airways says it is studying the potential opportunities in such a transaction, but that the purchase of the domain names is merely a way to protect its trademarks.

Shares of both Express Scripts and Medco were trading higher after the companies said they are delaying the close of their $29 billion merger. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the companies said they want to give antitrust regulators more time to finish assessing the deal, hoping to avoid presenting regulators with a deadline that would prompt them to block the deal.

European shares rose in early trade as investors positioned themselves for solid economic data from the U.S.