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Futures Lower After Mixed Economic News

Stock index futures fell ahead of the open on Tuesday after the government reported retail sales results that were slightly lower than expected, and a surge in import prices.

Retail sales rose 0.3 percent in January, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. That was less than the 0.6 percent gain expected by economists polled by Reuters. The results reflected weaker sales at stores selling building materials and at restaurants. In December, sales rose a downwardly revised 0.5 percent.

Also, U.S. import prices soared 1.5 percent, the Labor Department said. That's nearly twice the 0.8 percent gain expected by economists surveyed by Reuters. A 3.4 percent gain in petroleum prices helped to push import prices higher, the government said. Export prices rose 1.2 percent, beating the 0.7 percent gain expected by economists.

Meanwhile, a gauge of manufacturing in New York State rose to 15.43 in February, boosted by gains in inventories, its highest level since June, and up from 11.92 in in January, according to the New York Fed's Empire State index. Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected the index to rise to 15.00.

Inflation also remains a key factor to watch for investors after news that UK consumer prices surged 4 percent in January, double the Bank of England’s target. The latest figure will raise pressure on the central bank to look seriously at increasing interest rates.

Chinese inflation was lower than expected at 4.9 percent in the year to January, figures released on Tuesday showed, though price pressures continued to build and will force the central bank to stick to its course of monetary tightening.

In earnings news, Satellite radio company Sirius XM Radio sank after reporting a loss for the fourth quarterdue to rising operating expenses.

Dell announces quarterly earnings after the bell. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect the computer hardware comapny to have earned 37 cents per share in the fourth quarter on revenue of $15.7 billion.

Fedex will also be in the spotlight after the group cut its earnings forecast for the current quarter, citing disruption from winter storms in the United States and Europe and higher fuel prices. The delivery company's shares fell in post-market trading after the news was released, although FedEx shares rose in the pre-market on Tuesday.

Marriott International rose after news the hotel operator would spin off its timeshare businessand split into two companies. Marriott also reported quarterly results that were in line with expectations, with net income rising to $173 million or 46 cents a share, up from $106 million or 28 cents a share a year ago.

An SEC filing showed late on Monday that Warren Buffett’s investment firm had no holdings for eight stocks that had been listed in its third-quarter portfolio filing.

The company sold off stocks in Bank of America , Comcast and , among others.

In merger news, and Deutsche Boerse were expected announce their merger before the bell, with some details, including the name of what will be the world’s largest exchange operator, yet to be unveiled.

Details of the merger agreement emerged Monday as Fox Business reported that CME Group, the world's top derivatives exchange group, may make a hostile bid for NYSE Euronext, citing bankers.

Meanwhile Brazil's BM&FBovespa, the world's fourth-largest financial exchange operator, is closely watching for tie-up opportunities, Chief Executive Edemir Pinto told Reuters.

On the Calendar:

TUESDAY: Treasury international capital, business inventories, housing market index, Cleveland Fed President speaks, Dodd-Frank hearing, Geithner testifies before U.S. House, Fannie/Freddie reform hearing, credit-card default rates reported, 13-F filings due; earnings after-the-bell from Dell and Tesla.
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications, housing starts, PPI, industrial production, House hearing on FCIC report, oil inventories, FOMC minutes; earnings before-the-bell from Comcast; earnings after-the-bell from CBS, NetApp and Nvidia.
THURSDAY: Weekly jobless claims, CPI, leading indicators, Philadelphia Fed survey, Chicago Fed President speaks, money supply; earnings before-the-bell from Barrick Gold, AngloGold and Nordstrom.
FRIDAY: Earnings before-the-bell from Campbell Soup.

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