NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were paring gains Tuesday morning after retail sales for July were softer than expected offsetting a rebound in Asian and European stock markets.
Futures for the S&P 500 were up 0.15%, to 1,689.50.
As the mid-August vacation period takes hold, investors appear to be in a holding pattern, waiting to get a clearer indication of whether the Federal Reserve intends to cut back on its stimulus measures or leave in place the bond-buying that has kept credit loose and helped to drive the S&P 500's best start to a year since 1997.Futures tapered after the U.S. Census Bureau reported that July retail sales rose 0.2%, falling short of the average estimate of economists polled by Thomson Reuters, who were expecting sales to increase 0.3% from the prior month. The report revised June retail sales to show a 0.6% gain. Ex-autos rose 0.5%, which was slightly better than the 0.4% forecast. Ex-auto and gas rose 0.4%. In company news, shares of JC Penney (JCP) were up 1.7% to $13.39 in premarket trades a day after reports emerged that the company's board was expecting to name a new director in an attempt to smooth over a dispute with activist billionaire investor Bill Ackman. Japanese stocks rose overnight after the Bank of Japan released minutes of its latest monetary policy meeting, which left the key interest rate near zero and upwardly revised its economic outlook for growth amid its aggressive monetary stimulus program. Reports of a possible cut in corporate taxes also added a lift to Japanese equities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday that July import prices rose 0.2%, which was below economists' expectations for a 0.6% bump, but better than the 0.4% June fall. Export prices dipped 0.1%, missing economists expectations of a 0.2% increase. Export prices were unchanged in June. Business inventories for June were on the economic calendar for release at 10 a.m. ET as economists polled by Thomson Reuters were looking for a 0.2% increase. The May period saw a slight uptick by 0.1%. Stocks closed mixed on Monday as investors awaited the heavy agenda of economic news and speeches by Federal Reserve officials for more direction on the possibility of the central bank tapering its quantitative easing. Asian markets closed higher overnight. Japan's Nikkei average surged 2.57% to 13,867, as Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 1.21% to 22,541.
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