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.