Stock Futures Point Higher; Trade Deficit Narrower than Expected

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U.S. stock-index futures rose solidly on Tuesday as traders mulled a narrower-than-expected July trade deficit.

Today's Markets

As of 8:35 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 44 points to 13281, S&P 500 futures gained 4.5 points to 1431 and Nasdaq 100 futures advanced 8.5 points to 2793.

After posting big gains last week, many market participants have adopted a more cautious approach this week.

"We are seeing a second-consecutive day of quiet trading, as investors opt to sit on their hands and await developments," Chris Beauchamp, a market analyst at IG Index in London, wrote in an email.

Indeed, there are several key events expected throughout the week. In particular, traders across the globe are paying close attention to the German Constitutional Court, which is set to rule Wednesday on the European Stability Mechanism, the eurozone's permanent rescue fund.

Gavan Nolan, director of credit research at Markit, said in an email that it would be "a major surprise" if the ESM was not passed.

The Federal Reserve also reveals its monetary-policy decision later in the week. Data released recently have shown fresh strains, particularly in the labor market, which has some analysts expecting more easing from the central bank.

The Commerce Department said the U.S. trade deficit widened to $42 billion in July from a downwardly revised $41.9 billion in June as exports fell 1% and imports fell 0.8%. Economists were expecting the deficit to rise to $44 billion from a previously reported $42.92 billion. The trade deficit figures directly into third-quarter gross domestic product -- the lower the deficit, the less it detracts from GDP.

In corporate news, Legg Mason (NYSE:LM) said its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Fetting will be stepping down in October. The company said that Joseph Sullivan will serve as interim CEO as the board looks for a permanent chief executive.

In commodities, oil prices rose slightly. The benchmark contract traded in New York climbed 11 cents, or 0.11%, to $96.65 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline gained 0.2% to $3.03 a gallon.

In metals, gold drifted higher by $3, 0.17%, to $1,735 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 slipped 0.28% to 2521, the English FTSE 100 dipped 0.4% to 5770 and the German DAX fell 0.15% to 7203.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 slumped 0.7% to 8807 and the Chinese Hang Seng inched higher by 0.15% to 19858.