NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stock futures were charging higher Tuesday as investors cheered better-than-expected U.S. housing data and promising economic news out of Europe.

Futures for the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

were advancing 103 points, or 109.7 points above fair value, at 11,806. Futures for the

S&P 500

were rising 13.2 points, or 12.7 points above fair value, at 1212.2, and futures for the

Nasdaq

were ahead by 21.8 points, or 22.4 points above fair value, at 2234.

The Commerce Department on Tuesday reported better-than-expected housing starts in November, rising 9.3% to 685,000, up from the revised October estimate of 627,000 and better than the 630,000 that economists surveyed by

Thomson Reuters

were expecting. Building permit numbers for November also came in better than expected, rising 5.7% to 681,000, up from the revised October estimate of 644,000, and better than the 635,000 that economists polled by

Thomson Reuters

were expecting.

This, after it was reported Monday that homebuilder sentiment rose for a third consecutive month in December. The National Association of Home Builders said Monday that the NAHB/Wells Fargo housing market index rose 2 points to a reading of 21 from a downwardly revised 19 in November.

Stocks finished much lower Monday as

Bank of America

and other U.S. banks suffered a regulatory setback and the future of the European Union became more uncertain. On Monday, European Union finance ministers agreed to come up with an additional €150 billion in funding for the International Monetary Fund to help tame the debt crisis, but this was short of the €200 billion originally agreed upon by the EU nations.

Also helping lift U.S. stock futures was an improvement of German business sentiment in December after two previous months of very little change. The eurozone's largest economy apparently is shielding itself from the sluggishness in surrounding Western European countries, according to Germany's Ifo Institute on Tuesday. The Ifo business-confidence index improved to 107.2 points in December as firms spoke of better economic expectations.

Tuesday was also greeted with a relatively successful € 5.6 billion Spanish short-term debt auction, which alleviated concerned about sovereign debt funding challenges in the eurozone.

Germany's DAX was rising 0.78%, while London's FTSE was down 0.25%. Overnight, Japan's Nikkei Average finished 0.49% higher, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index closed up 0.06%.

In corporate news,

General Mills

(GIS) - Get Report

said Tuesday that second-quarter earnings declined 28% because of rising costs. The maker of Cheerios, earned $444.8 million, or 67 cents a share, in the quarter, down from year-earlier earnings of $613.9 million, or 92 cents. Adjusted earnings were 76 cents a share, below analysts' expectations of 79 cents. General Mills shares fell 1.5% to $39.

ConAgra

(CAG) - Get Report

, the maker of Chef Boyardee and Slim Jim, said fiscal second-quarter net income fell 15%. Earnings were $171.8 million, or 41 cents a share, including certain items, down from $200.9 million, or 46 cents, a year earlier. Adjusted earnings were 47 cents a share. Analysts were expecting fiscal second-quarter profit of 43 cents a share.

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

said Monday it was dropping its $39 billion bid to acquire

T-Mobile USA.

The transaction was sidelined by antitrust concerns of U.S. regulators, who argued the combination would lead to less choice and higher prices for consumers. AT&T said it expects to record a pretax charge of $4 billion in its fiscal fourth quarter for a breakup fee it will pay T-Mobile parent company

Deutsche Telekom

(DT) - Get Report

Red Hat

(RHT) - Get Report

, the business software maker, posted fiscal third-quarter adjusted earnings of $55.7 million, or 28 cents a share, on revenue of $290 million, topping the forecasts of analysts. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected Red Hat to earn 26 cents a share on revenue of $289.6 million. For the full fiscal year, Red Hat sees earnings of $1.07 to $1.08 a share. The average analysts' view is profit of $1.05 a share.

February oil futures were up $1.13 to $95.18 a barrel. February gold futures were rising $9.40 to $1,606.10 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was falling 12/32, pushing the yield to 1.859%. The U.S. dollar was falling against a basket of six major currencies, with the dollar index down 0.6% at $79.90.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York

.