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Futures Higher; Autos Await, Staples Falls

Stock index futures pointed to a higher open Tuesday as Wall Street looks to keep March going on a positive note.

The month has started well for the market. Monday's gains put the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq in positive territory for the year for the first time since late January. The Dow is still down for the year, but by less than 25 points.

Increasing confidence that the European Union was progression on a solution to Greece's debt problems helped reinforce the positive momentum.

In Tuesday's auto sales numbers, analysts will be watching both for the spillover effects of Toyota's recall problems and how bad weather in the Northeast may have affected sales.

GM leads off the sales figures parade at 9:45 am New York time, rather than the usual 1:45 pm. Also, Toyota's North American President Yoshimi Inaba will testify before the Senate Commerce Committee to update lawmakers on the company's recall fixes and its operational changes to prevent such problems from recurring.

In other auto news, GM is recalling 1.3 million compact cars in the U.S. and Canada. The company is repairing power steering motors that may fail and make steering more difficult.

In earnings, Staples reported a profit that missed Wall Street expectations even though revenue was better than expected. Shares tumbled 7.4 percent in premarket trading.

There also will be the latest quarterly numbers from AutoZone, Domino's Pizza, and Staples.

Looking to the economy, Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Thomas Hoenig will appear on CNBC's "Squawk On The Street," while Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota will speak to business executives in Minneapolis at 1 pm.

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DPZ
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SPLS
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Qualcomm could be a stock to watch today, after the company raised its quarterly dividend to 19 cents per share from 17 cents, and launched a new share buyback program after a prior one ended.

Walt Disney and Cablevision are involved in a fee dispute that could result in New York's WABC-TV disappearing for Cablevision viewers this weekend.

Dell shares gained more than 2 percent premarket after a company executive told Reuters the computer maker will be looking for acquisitions to bolster its consumer, small and medium business unit.

In another deal-related development, CF Industries raised its offer for Terra Industries to $47.70 per share for the fertilizer company. Terra shares leaped 11 percent while CF fell more than 7 percent premarket.

Analysts see the year as an active one for mergers and acquisitionsafter a moribund 2009.

Senate negotiators may be close to finalizing a financial regulation reform bill, with the structure of a consumer watchdog agency the main issue of contention.

- Written by Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk.