Futures Gain on Oil Drop; Energy Shares Slip

Stock index futures pointed to a solid rise at the start of trading Tuesday, with sentiment buoyed by falling oil prices and confidence the Federal Reserve won't surprise the Street with any rate moves at its afternoon meeting.

New York light crude prices continued to slide, falling as low as $118 a barrel, with traders focusing on supply instead of the possibility of any disruption to production from a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil's next stop will be $100 a barrel, according to technical analyst Nick Batsford from Hobart Capital.

The recent drop in commodities is giving stocks room to run by relieving inflationary pressure and taking some heat off the Federal Reserve, which wants to avoid slowing economic growth by pushing rates higher, Dodge Dorland, chief investment strategist at Landor Capital Management, told "Worldwide Exchange."

"Oil at the low yesterday in fact touched the 20 percent correction level," Kevin Ferry, of Cronus Futures Management, said on CNBC. "If that was a stock people would be talking about a potential bear market in oil, so we'll see how it responds today."

Oil's drop crushed shares of energy producers Monday, and Dow components ExxonMobil and Chevron both edged lower in premarket trading.

The Federal Open Market Committee is generally expected to keep the fed funds rate at 2 percent, but the statement will important for any clues about whether the committee is more concerned about growth or rising prices.

In earnings, Dow component Procter & Gamble released its quarterly report and disappointed Wall Street a bit despite beating expectations. Futures came off their morning highs following the company's report.

Procter & Gamble said price increases and cost controls offset soaring prices for oil and other commodities.

The world's largest consumer products maker's profit was $3.02 billion, or 92 cents a share, in the fiscal fourth quarter ended June 30, compared with $2.27 billion, or 67 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding benefits from the adjustment of tax reserves, earnings were 80 cents a share in the quarter, compared to Wall Street expectations of 78 cents.

Shares, though, edged lower in premarket trading.

In the financial sector, Lehman Bros. held conversations about the possible sale of the firm's entire investment management division, which includes its Neuberger & Berman asset management unit as well as stakes in hedge funds and private equity funds, CNBC has learned.

And Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain told CNBC that the brokerage firm is "very well capitalized" but didn't rule out further writedowns if the value of risky assets continues to decline.

There are no economic indicators scheduled before the bell, but at 10 am New York time the Institute of Supply Management will release its measure of July manufacturing activity.

Economists predict that the index edged up to 48.7 from 48.2 in June.