Stock index futures point up; Bernanke eyed

(Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI>, the S&P 500 <.SPX> and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> all rising 0.6 percent.

At 10 a.m. EST the investor focus will be on testimony by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke before the Senate Banking Committee.

He is expected to remain cautious about the economy, despite recent data pointing to improvement, signaling the central bank is unlikely to cut short its $600 billion stimulus plan.

The dollar <.DXY> stayed near a three-and-a-half month low against a currency basket on the view that the U.S. Federal Reserve will stick with loose monetary policy.

Looking at macroeconomic news, investors will watch the ICSC/Goldman Sachs weekly U.S. chain store sales data at 1245 GMT and at 1355 GMT is the release of the Redbook weekly U.S. Retail Sales index.

U.S. ISM manufacturing for February will be a focus at 1500 GMT as will be the release of U.S. construction spending for January.

In earnings news, AutoZone Inc. is reporting second-quarter results and CenterPoint Energy <CNP.N> fourth-quarter results.

Citing people familiar with the process, Bloomberg said on Monday, General Mills Inc <GIS.N> and Nestle SA <NESN.VX> are among leading candidates to buy a 50 percent stake in French yogurt maker Yoplait.

U.S. regulator Sheila Bair said unless America's big international banks can prove they will be easy to dismantle in another financial crisis, they may have to restructure and downsize their operations now.

Veteran banking analyst Mike Mayo estimated on Monday, Citigroup Inc <C.N> could write down some $5 billion to $10 billion in expected future tax benefits if the United States decreases corporate tax rates.

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi were massed in the west of the country on Tuesday, residents said, and the United States said it was moving warships and air forces closer to Libya.

Brent crude rose above $112 a barrel on Tuesday as the unrest continued in the Middle East and North Africa.

Figures out of China, showed manufacturing growth slowed in February while costs jumped, suggesting monetary tightening was beginning to register but that more would probably be needed to cool inflation due largely to rising oil and food prices.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of top shares was 0.4 percent higher on Tuesday as investor sentiment was given a boost by optimism over the outlook for the U.S. economy.

U.S. stocks rose on Monday after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc <BRKa.N>, gave bullish comments in his widely read annual letter saying he saw the need for "major acquisitions," a sign stocks may be cheap.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 0.8 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was 0.6 percent higher and the Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 0.04 percent.

(Reporting by Joanne Frearson; Editing by Mike Nesbit)