Futures Flat; Earnings Season Set to Kick Off


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U.S. stock-index futures were little changed on Tuesday as traders awaited the start of fourth-quarter earnings season.

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Today's Markets

As of 7:47 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 1 point to 13306, S&P 500 futures dipped 1 point to 1455 and Nasdaq 100 futures slipped 0.5 point to 2717.

With the drama in Congress on the back burner for the moment, traders are bracing for the flood of quarterly earnings reports due to start Tuesday. Alcoa (NYSE:AA), the blue-chip aluminum maker, is expected to post earnings of six cents a share on sales of $5.6 billion after the closing bell.

Analysts struck a cautious tone heading into earnings season.

"We suspect earnings season will be a negative for the market overall," Barry Knapp, an analyst at Barclays wrote in a note to clients. He notes that revenue performance could stabilize this quarter after sales repeatedly surprised to the downside during the third quarter. However, he warns that companies' forward guidance could surprise market participants.

On the European front, the unemployment rate in the eurozone ticked up by 0.1-percentage point in November to 11.8% -- a record high as the economy there continues reeling from the debt crisis.

Oil futures climbed modestly. The benchmark crude oil contract climbed 38 cents, or 0.41%, to $93.57 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline rose 0.9% to $2.802 a gallon. In metals, gold climbed $7.50, or 0.46%, to $1,654 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.5% to 2709, the English FTSE 100 climbed 0.26% to 6080 and the German DAX edged up 0.17% to 7746.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 slumped 0.86% to 10508 and the Chinese Hang Seng sold off by 0.94% to 23111.