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Stock-index futures fluctuated mildly ahead of the opening bell on Tuesday as traders took a breather following four-straight days of losses and awaited the kick off of earnings season.

Today's Markets

As of 9:20 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 3 points to 12853, S&P 500 futures fell 0.8 point to 1374 and Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 7 points to 2736.

Renewed worries that the American economic recovery may be losing steam, coupled with fading hopes that the Federal Reserve is ready to provide another round of stimulus, has knocked the S&P 500 down 2.6% over the past four trading days. It has been the steepest losing streak for the broad-market index since December 2011. Still, the index remains up nearly 10% for the year. 

Traders took a breather from the selling and assessed their positions ahead of the unofficial kick off of the first-quarter earnings season after the closing bell. Aluminum giant Alcoa (AA) is expected to post a four cent per share quarterly loss on revenue of $5.8 billion. 

As equities have declined, traders have bid up U.S. Treasury bonds, seen as a safe haven in tumultuous markets. The yield on the 10-year has plummeted 0.249-percentage point in the biggest four-day decline since November 2011. The yield ticked up slightly to 2.054% on Tuesday. As bond prices rise, yields fall. 

In energy markets, U.S. crude has retreated more than 6% from its 2012 high of $109.77 a barrel as tension has calmed somewhat between Western states and Iran and supplies have swelled. The benchmark contract traded in New York slipped 73 cents, or 0.72%, to $101.75 a barrel. New York Harbor wholesale gasoline dipped 3 cents, or 0.86%, to $3.269 a gallon. 

In metals, gold ticked higher by 90 cents, or 0.05%, to $1,645 a troy ounce. 

Foreign Markets 

European blue chips sold off by 1.3%, the English FTSE 100 slumped 0.95% to 5669 and the German DAX dropped 1% to 6706. 

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 slipped 0.09% to 9538 and the Chinese Hang Seng shed 1.2% to 20356. 

Follow Adam Samson on Twitter @adamsamson.