Futures pare gains after economic reports; JCP gains

U.S. stock index futures shaved some gains Tuesday, after retail sales came in just shy of expectations, though positive news from overseas kept a limit on losses.

(Read more: Stars aligned for 'serious' US correction, analyst says)

On the economic front, retail sales edged up 0.2 percent in July, according to the Commerce Department, just below expectations for a gain of 0.3 percent.

And import prices rose less than expected in July, gaining just 0.2 percent last month, according to the Labor Department, pointing to benign inflation pressures. Economists polled by Reuters had expected prices to rebound 0.6 percent after four-straight months of declines.

Traders will also be watching for comments related to Federal Reserve "tapering" from Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, who speaks at 12:45 pm ET on the economic outlook. Lockhart's speech will be of particular interest, given that last week he said Fed tapering could begin as early as September.

(Read more: GDP growth a question mark as wholesale inventories miss)

Activist investor Bill Ackman resigned from JCPenney's board after days of turmoil, saying that a deal for his exit is "the most constructive way forward" to save the retailer. He indicated to CNBC he doesn't plan to sell his shares in the company. JCPenney rose in pre-market trading.

Yum Brands declined after the parent company of KFC and Pizza Hut said it expects a 13 percent drop in July same-store sales in China.

Among earnings, Flowers Foods climbed after the baking company topped earnings expectations, thanks to its recent acquisitions of Lepage Bakeries and some of Sara Lee's bread brands.

Cree, Brocade and SeaWorld Entertainment are among notable companies slated to post results after the closing bell.

In Asia, the Nikkei closed 2.6 percent higher after the Nikkei newspaper reported that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for a study on the impact of lowering the current corporate tax rate, as a way to attract foreign capital and boost growth.

Meanwhile, China's benchmark index, the Shanghai Composite, hit its highest level since June 20 on rising economic sentiment, Australia's S&P ASX 200 rose to its highest level in nearly three months and South Korea's Kospi hit a one-week high.

In Europe, shares were higher in morning trade after Germany's closely-watched ZEW indicator of economic sentiment came in at a highest since March. The index stood at 42.0 for August, up on 36.3 in the previous month.

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

On Tap This Week:

TUESDAY: Business inventories, Fed's Lockhart speaks, Samsung holiday mobile preview; Earnings from Cree
WEDNESDAY: MBA mortgage applications, producer price index, oil inventories, Fed's Bullard speaks; Earnings from Deere, Macy's, Cisco, NetApp, NetEase
THURSDAY: Fed's Bullard speaks, consumer price index, jobless claims, Empire state mfg survey, Treasury int'l capital, industrial production, housing market index, Philadelphia Fed survey, e-commerce retail sales, natural gas inventories, Fed balance sheet/money supply, Ford analysts mtg; Earnings from Wal-Mart, Kohl's, Applied Materials, Nordstrom
FRIDAY: Housing starts, productivity & costs, consumer sentiment

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