Stocks were lower early Tuesday, continuing the previous session's late power failure, as traders shortened up ahead of a report that is expected to show declining retail sales last month.

Index futures recently showed the S&P 500 trading 3 points below fair value, while the Nasdaq 100 was set for a 4-point decline. The 10-year Treasury bond was up 5/32 in price to yield 4.75%, while the dollar was lower against the yen and euro.

The Labor Department is expected to say retail sales fell 0.9% in February after surging 2.3% the month before, as bad weather in the northern U.S. kept shoppers at home. Later, the Commerce Department will release its report on January business inventories. Economists are looking for a 0.3% gain.

In early ratings news, Deutsche Bank upgraded Anheuser-Busch ( BUD) to buy from hold, citing improving fundamentals. Shares of Budweiser's parent are flat since the start of the year. The same stock was also upgraded at Bear Stearns.

Oil eased after a 3% runup Monday, as the International Energy Agency reduced its estimate for worldwide petroleum demand in the current year. The European group now sees daily demand at 1.49 million barrels a day, down from 1.78 million in its previous forecast. April crude was losing 15 cents to $61.62 a barrel.

Overseas markets were mixed, with London's FTSE 100 rising 0.2% to 5964 while Germany's Xetra DAX slipped 0.5% to 5828. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei fell 0.8% overnight to 16,238, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.1% to 15,520.

A string of brokerage earnings kicks off Tuesday morning with Goldman Sachs ( GS), which is expected to say it earned $3.29 a share on revenue of $7.2 billion in its fiscal first quarter. Reports from Bear Stearns ( BSC), Lehman Brothers ( LEH) and Morgan Stanley ( MS) are due later in the week.

To view David Peltier's video take on today's premarket action, click here .

Monday night, Procter & Gamble ( PG) raised the low end of its third-quarter earnings guidance, but also said organic sales growth during the period could be a percentage point below forecasts. P&G cited "recent customer inventory reductions and tempered outlooks for Asia and Eastern Europe."

Sonus ( SONS), which makes equipment for voice-over-Internet-protocol calling, said fourth-quarter earnings slipped slightly to $5 million, or 2 cents a share, on a 27% rise in sales to $57.2 million. Analysts were expecting earnings of 1 cent a share on sales of $50 million.