Futures Edge Higher Amid Earnings Hopes

U.S. stock index futures edged higher Tuesday, lifted by upbeat economic data from Europe and China and following Alcoa's earnings report.

Alcoa kicked off earnings season after the U.S. closing bell on Monday. The bellwether reported an increase in profits to $149 million, or 13 cents per share, but revenues came in at $5.83 billion, just shy of analysts' expectations for $5.88 billion.(Click here for the latest after-hours quote.)

Earnings for the S&P 500 are expected to increase 1.6 percent for the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters. The big rush of earnings reports begins next week and no major companies are due to report on Tuesday.

(Read More: Earnings Season Arrives as Data Flash Warning Signs)

In economic news, the government will also release wholesale inventories data for February at 10 a.m. New York time. Economists polled by Reuters forecast a rise of 0.5 percent, versus January's 1.2 percent gain.

The National Federation of Independent Business reported that business confidence fell again in March, with its index dropping 1.3 points to 89.5 despite anticipation that the measure would rise.

In Europe, industrial production in the U.K. rose by more than expected in February, diminishing the risk the economy slipped back into recession in the first quarter of 2013.

Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew pushed for a growth rather than an austerity agenda during the first day of his two-day visit to Europe. Speaking in Brussels, Lew said that the U.S. had an "immense stake in Europe's health and stability" and called on Europe to boost demand.

China's annual consumer inflation eased to 2.1 percent in March from February's 3.2 percent while producer price deflation deepened, data showed on Tuesday, leaving policymakers room to keep monetary conditions easy and nurture a nascent recovery.

Traders will be looking out for clues about the future of quantitative easing this week, with the Federal Reserve set to release minutes from its last meeting on Wednesday.There are also several appearances by Fed officials this week, including anti-inflation hawk Jeffrey Lacker and Atlanta Federal Reserve President Dennis Lockhart on Tuesday.

(Read More: Pimco's Bill Gross: Beware of 'Monetary Red Bull')

U.S. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke spoke overnight on Monday at an Atlanta Fed conference. In a speech that did not directly touch on monetary policy, Bernanke hinted at why the central bank continues to pursue ultra-easy monetary policy.

"The economy is significantly stronger than it was four years ago, although conditions are clearly still far from where we would all like them to be," he said.

(Read More: Bernanke Says Stress Tests Make Banks More Stable)

Disney will be in focus as the conglomerate readies to lay off 150 people this week, according to sources close to the situation. The job cuts will be predominately in home entertainment, as the company adjusts to industry-wide declines in DVD sales.

In the bond markets, the Treasury will sell $32 billion in three-year notes with the results available shortly after 1pm ET.

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

Coming Up This Week:

TUESDAY: Fed's Lacker speaks, wholesale inventories, 3-yr note aution, Fed's Lockhart speaks, Bank of New York Mellon shareholders mtg
WEDNESDAY: Mortgage applications, Fed's Lockhart speaks, Fed's Kocherlakota speaks, oil inventories, IMF's Lagarde speaks in NYC, 10-yr note auction, FOMC minutes, Treasury budget, Obama budget blueprint released; Earnings from CarMax, Constellation Brands, Chevron (interim report), Bed Bath & Beyond
THURSDAY: Fed's Plosser speaks, Fed's Bullard speaks, Jobless claims, import/export prices, natural gas inventories, 30-yr bond auction, Fed balance sheet, money supply, Deutsche Bank annual mtg; Earnings from Pier 1 Imports, Rite Aid, JB Hunt
FRIDAY: PPI, retail sales, consumer sentiment, business inventories, Bernanke speaks at Fed's development conf.; Earnings from JPMorgan, Wells Fargo

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