U.S. stock index futures were higher Tuesday following a batch of better-than-expected earnings and as investors speculated Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke may give fresh cluesabout further stimulus measures on the heels of several weak economic reports pointing to an economic slowdown.
Bernanke testifies before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee at 10 am ET time with financial markets hanging on his testimony for any clues as to how close the Fed may be to launching another round of bond purchases.
"Investors still seem to be worried that the U.S. economy is not growing fast enough and could be at risk of falling back into recession," wrote Gary Thayer, chief macro strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors. "Therefore, it would be important to see if Fed Chairman Bernanke can deliver a message which highlights the economic improvement during the past few years and at at the same time, repeats the Fed's willingness to provide more help to boost growth if needed."
On the economic front, consumer prices were flat in June, in line with expectations, as the cost of gasoline dropped, according to the Labor Department. And excluding food and energy, core CPI gained 0.2 percent for the fourth-consecutive month.
Industrial production gained 0.4 percent in June, according to the Federal Reserve, while capacity utilization was 78.8 percent. Economists polled by Reuters expected an increase of 0.3 percent and a reading of 79.2 percent capacity utilization.
The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo issues its July housing market index at 10:00 am ET. Economists expect a reading of 30 versus 29 in June.