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US stock-index futures hovered in a tight range on Tuesday, with investors waiting for the latest reading on American auto sales and earnings from tech heavyweight Apple.

Less than an hour before the opening bell in New York, S&P 500 futures slipped 0.01 per cent to 2,386.8, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures dipped 0.03 per cent to 20,866 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 0.12 per cent to 5,637.8.

The docket this week is full of potentially market-moving information that will be closely scrutinised by investors, with equities sitting near historic highs and valuations again beginning to push higher. In fact, the S&P 500 index, Wall Street’s benchmark equities gauge, is trading at about 17.6-times forward earnings – a key valuation metric – just shy of the 18-times hit on March 1 that was the highest since 2004.

As stock prices have climbed, expectations for volatility have dropped, with the Vix index, which measures predictions for S&P 500 tumult over the next month, sinking on Monday to the lowest level since before the financial crisis.

Monthly sales figures released from US automakers throughout Tuesday morning may help to shed more light on how the overall economy is faring, after economic growth slowed in the first three months of this year, with consumption cooling sharply. Analysts expect sales to have come in at an annualised pace of 17.1m in April, a solid uptick from the 16.5m rate that was struck in March.

After the closing bell, Apple, the world’s biggest company that accounts for almost 4 per cent of S&P 500 market value, discloses its quarterly earnings figures. The results are important since earnings have been strong thus far, with only 15 per cent of S&P 500 groups missing profit expectations, according to FactSet data. Profit growth may come in at a double-digit year-on-year gait for the first time since 2011.

Gilead, one of the largest US biotechnology companies, also discloses its results after the close.

Elsewhere, in fixed income, US Treasuries faced selling pressure for the second day in a row. The 10-year note yield was up by 0.018 percentage point to 2.336 per cent. Gold slipped 0.3 per cent to $1,252.4 a troy ounce.

The US dollar index, a measure of the greenback against half a dozen global currencies, was flat. However, the buck advanced against the Japanese yen for the fourth-straight session, up recently by 0.37 per cent to ¥112.25.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.

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