NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stock index futures edged lower on Tuesday as investors took profits following an extended rally and waited for earnings and data on consumer confidence and housing.
Equities have been on a tear lately, with the S&P 500 ending an eight-day streak of gains in Monday's session. The index remained above 1,500, suggesting there was still support for a market that has been hovering around five-year highs.
"We need to slow down and digest the huge move we've had, so it makes sense futures are weak this morning, though it is also encouraging that we're still strong enough to stay above 1,500," said Christian Wagner, chief executive officer at Longview Capital Management in Wilmington, Delaware.
The gains have largely come on a strong start to earnings season and that trend continued on Tuesday, with positive results from both Ford Motor Co
Pfizer, a Dow component, posted fourth-quarter earnings that topped expectations, sending shares up 0.6 percent to $26.95. Eli Lilly and Co
Ford also posted earnings that topped consensus views, but the stock was volatile in premarket trading fluctuating from rise to loss. The second-largest car company forecast a wider loss in its European segment because of weakness in that region. After climbing more than 4 percent before the bell, it turned lower to fall 2 percent to $13.50.
"We've had some cross-currents on earnings, with both strength and weakness, and that's another reason we need some affirmation the upside will continue from here," said Wagner.
Thomson Reuters data showed that of the 150 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings so far, 67.3 percent have beaten analysts' expectations, which is a higher proportion than over the past four quarters and above the average since 1994.
S&P 500 futures fell 5.2 points and were below 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 fell 30 points and Nasdaq 100 futures slid 9.5 points.
The Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee begins two days of meetings on interest rates. Traders speculated more solid U.S. growth indicators might see the Fed pull back on its aggressive easing stimulus, which has played a key role in fuelling an equity market rally since the second half of last year.
In a sign of the improved view towards equities, investors poured $55 billion in new cash into stock mutual funds and exchange-traded funds in January, the biggest monthly inflow on record, research provider TrimTabs Investment Research said.
Still, market participants will look to the latest economic data for evidence the recent rally was justified.
January consumer confidence, due at 10 a.m. (1500 GMT) is seen dipping to 64 from 65.1 in the previous month. The S&P Case/Shiller Home Price Index for November is seen showing an increase of 0.6 percent in home prices. Case/Shiller is due at 9 a.m.
While the housing market has recently shown signs of improvement, data released on Monday showed pending home sales unexpectedly slumped in December.
U.S. stocks edged modestly lower on Monday. However, Caterpillar Inc
(Editing by Kenneth Barry)
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