Futures Flat as Indexes Remain at Record Highs


U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Tuesday, as investors looked ahead to upcoming economic data to see whether the recent equity rally has been justified.

Wall Street has soared this year, with major indexes hitting repeated all-time highs. As the rally has come without pronounced declines, many investors have called for a pullback amid few signs of robust economic growth.

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Insight into the economy's strength will come with the release of November consumer confidence data at 10:00 a.m. EST (1500 GMT). Confidence is seen rising to 72.9 from 71.2 last month. Separately, the September CaseShiller read on home prices is due at 9:00 a.m., with prices seen rising 0.8 percent.

Trading is expected to be light this week, with many traders out because of the Thanksgiving holiday. Markets will be closed on Thursday and will close early on Friday. The light action could amplify market volatility.

S&P 500 futures dipped 0.5 point but remained above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 1 point and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 1.5 point.

Wall Street has been on a tear recently, with both the Dow and S&P 500 rising for seven straight weeks. The S&P is up 26.4 percent this year, while the Nasdaq moved above 4,000 on Monday for the first time in 13 years.

The gains have largely come on the back of expectations for continued stimulus from the Federal Reserve, and while the central bank's program is expected to provide a floor for equity prices for as long as it continues, some recent market volatility has been related to uncertainty over when the program will end.

The Fed has said it would begin to slow the program when economic growth meets its targets, putting some of the market's focus on data.

In company news, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that at least six major private equity groups are competing to buy the industrial packaging segment of Illinois Tool Works Inc <ITW.N>, in a deal that could fetch more than $3 billion.

A U.S. judge has rejected Citigroup Inc's <C.N> effort to block the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority from seeking a second arbitration over the sovereign wealth fund's $7.5 billion investment in late 2007 to shore up the then-struggling bank.

Macquarie raised its view on the coal sector, upgrading Peabody Energy Corp <BTU.N> to "outperform" from "neutral," and boosting its price target on both Arch Coal Inc <ACI.N> and Cloud Peak Energy Inc <CLD.N>.

U.S. stocks closed little changed on Monday, with energy shares pressured by a decline in oil prices, though Wal-Mart Stores <WMT.N> rose after naming a new chief executive.