* Yum shares fall alongside China sales
* Sears says CEO to step down, shares rise
* Futures: Dow flat, S&P off 0.8 pt, Nasdaq down 0.5 pt
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, Jan 8 U.S. stock index futures were
little changed in low volume on Tuesday before the unofficial
start of the earnings season, which is expected to show sluggish
Profits in the fourth quarter were expected to top the
previous quarter's lackluster results, but analysts' current
estimates are down sharply from where they were in October.
Quarterly earnings are expected to grow by 2.8 percent,
according to Thomson Reuters data.
German data showed industrial orders fell more than forecast
in November due to a sharp drop in demand from abroad,
reinforcing concerns that Europe's largest economy may have
contracted in the fourth quarter of 2012.
"I'm surprised futures are holding up, given the relative
disappointment that German data showed, but I think all eyes are
on the beginning of earnings season," said Kim Forrest, senior
equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in
Monsanto Co, Apollo Group and Dow component
Alcoa Inc start the quarterly season.
Monsanto shares rose 3.2 percent to $99 after announcing
first-quarter results and the company's outlook.
"Alcoa is not a huge bellwether," Forrest said. Investors
are now focused more on companies' performance than on
macroeconomic factors, so "we should be kind of flat until we
get some company-oriented news," she said.
S&P 500 futures were off 0.8 point and slightly 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 were
unchanged, and Nasdaq 100 futures fell half a point.
Shares of Yum Brands Inc fell 5 percent to $64.50 in
premarket trading a day after the KFC parent warned sales in
China shrank more than expected in the fourth quarter.
Sears Holdings shares rose 5.5 percent to $45.27 in
light premarket trading a day after the company said its chief
executive will step down for family health reasons. The U.S.
retailer also reported a 1.8 percent decline in quarter-to-date
sales at stores open at least a year.
ConAgra Foods Inc priced a public offering of 8.1
million common shares at $29.75 per share, the foodmaker said on
Monday. ConAgra closed at $30.17 during regular Monday trading.