Stock Futures Tick Lower as Traders Eye Earnings

Stock futures were largely flat on Tuesday, as investors waited to see if expected robust service-sector and factory-order data will provide momentum for a winning session for Wall Street.

A downbeat set of data out of China could take some steam out of investors' sails, though.

Meanwhile, a few companies are set to report ahead of the opening bell: Archer Daniels Midland Co., CVS Caremark Corp. and others.

Hugging the flat line, futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJU4) rose 2 points to 16,488, while those for the S&P 500 index (SPU4) eased 0.6 point to 1,931.50. Futures for the Nasdaq-100 index (NDU4) inched back 1 point to 3,895.75.

The Institute for Supply Management's nonmanufacturing index, due at 10 a.m. Eastern Time, is projected to climb to 56.5% in July, from 56% in June. That would indicate continued growth in the service sector, though the index's readings on hiring intentions and employment may get more attention.

At the same time, factory orders from June will be released. They are expected to rebound from a 0.5% drop in May to a 0.6% gain.

Bulls or bears in control?

Wall Street stocks recouped some of last week's heavy losses on Monday, with the S&P 500 (SPX) closing up 0.7% to 1,938.99, its first gain in three sessions. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) finished up 0.5% to 16,569.28, snapping a four-day losing streak.

Some strategists said this week could determine whether the bulls or bears are in control after last week's sizable selloff, tied to the view that a sooner-than-expected rate hike is on the cards.

"The trading action of the rally [Monday] was similar to that of previous rebounds during the 'buy the dip' environment," said Michael O'Rourke, chief trading strategist of Jones Trading, in a note to investors. The ensuing short scramble was "so aggressive that Russian's sabre rattling" -- news that it had 160 tanks and 33,000 troops on Ukraine's border -- "didn't even cause a blip."

O'Rourke added that important resistance for S&P 500 is at 1,960, with support at 1,930 and 1,920.

Earnings in focus

The Walt Disney Co. (DIS) will report fiscal third-quarter results after the market closes, and analysts expect profits to rise. Marvel Studios, owned by Disney, saw a blockbuster opening weekend for "Guardians of the Galaxy". See earnings preview for Disney

Ahead of the bell, Coach Inc. (COH), Office Depot Inc. (ODP) , Archer Daniels (ADM) and CVS Caremark (CVS) will report earnings. See earnings preview

See also: Office Depot mentioned in Goldman Sachs note from July 22

Shares of American International Group Inc.(AIG) could add to Monday's late-session gains, after the insurer easily beat Wall Street forecasts with its results.

In overseas markets, European stocks took some inspiration from Wall Street gains on Monday.

The Nikkei 225 index fell to its weakest closing level in more than a week, after the HSBC China services purchasing managers index came in at the lowest reading in the nearly nine-year history of the index. China is a big export market for Japan manufacturers. The rest of Asia also finished mostly lower.

September futures contracts for both crude oil (CLU4) and gold (GCU4) were up slightly, while the dollar (DXY) was holding steady.