Futures Higher; Alcoa Up, WebMD Slammed

US stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street on Tuesday, tracking European markets and buoyed by a positive outlook from US aluminum giant Alcoa after the bell on Monday.

Alcoa said demand for aluminum, used in cyclical industries such as aerospace and auto manufacturing, would increase in 2012. The company reported a loss excluding one-time items that was in line with expectations, but revenue exceeded Wall Street estimates. Shares jumped 2.5 percent in premarket trading.

Major indices indicated gains of 1 percent or more at the opening bell.

Also in earnings, integrated circuit developer Cirrus Logic said it expects to show revenue growth of 28 percent for the quarter on strong demand. Stifel Nicolaus raised the company to a buy, and Cirrus shares surged 10 percent premarket.

Yoga-wear manufacturer Lululemon boosted its outlook as well due to an increase in inventory, sending its shares up 11 percent.

Juniper Networks saw its shares edge lower after it lowered guidance due to weakening network router demand from service providers.

Tiffany also lowered its outlook, with the luxury retailer citing disappointing demand during the holiday season. Its shares fell 7.5 percent premarket.

The worst news of the day, though, came for WebMD, which saw its CEO resign and an end to takeover talks, all while the company lowered its outlook. Shares tumbled 24 percent premarket.

Miners, which led gains in Europe , were helped further by firmer copper prices after Chinese data showed a rise in imports, which accounts for 40 percent of the refined metal's global consumption.

Although overall Chinese trade data showed exports and imports grew at their slowest pace in more than two years it also boosted hopes that Beijing would relax monetary policy to contain a slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.

Economic data expected on Tuesday is relatively light, with the government publishing wholesale inventories data for November at 10 am New York time. Analysts polled by the website Briefing.com expected a rise of 0.6 percent in the month compared to a 1.6 percent increase in October.

Aside from that, the Labor Department will publish its monthly job opportunities and labor turnover survey, popularly known as “JOLTS,” also at 10 am.

There are no significant earnings releases on Tuesday.

In corporate news, the investigation into MF Global is intensifying as federal authorities unearth new details and confront potential obstacles in their hunt for roughly $1.2 billion in customer money that disappeared from the brokerage firm.

While prosecutors and regulators have jointly conducted dozens of depositions with former and current employees, a senior official in the Chicago office of MF Global recently declined to meet with the federal authorities, people briefed on the investigation said.

In other company news, Liz Claiborne also cut its 2012 outlook and announced that Chief Financial Officer Andrew Warren would be leaving to join Discovery Communications as CFO. The firm lost 9 percent in after-hours trade.

Ford Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth is planning to retire in the first half of this year. He had been seen as a possible eventual successor to Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally.

United Continental has struck a tentative contract deal with its flight attendants union, the result of a mediation process that began in September.

And Apple CEO Tim Cook has been awarded $378 million in compensation for 2011, largely in the form of restricted stock that vests over a period of 10 years.