* Moody's cuts France credit rating
* Best Buy earnings on tap
* Housing starts data expected
* Futures up: Dow 2 pts, S&P 1.1 pts, Nasdaq 3 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Nov 20 U.S. stock index futures were
little changed on Tuesday, indicating the S&P 500 index may
pause after a two-day rally as a credit downgrade of France by
Moody's reminded investors of the problems plaguing the global
* The benchmark S&P index had risen more than 2 percent in
the previous two sessions, spurring by optimism a deal could be
reached in the U.S. to stave off the looming "fiscal cliff," a
series of tax and spending changes that will begin to take
effect in the new year.
* Moody's Investors Service cut France's sovereign rating by
one notch to Aa1 after the market close on Monday, citing an
uncertain fiscal outlook as a result of the weakening economy.
* While the move was expected after a similar downgrade by
peer Standard & Poor's in January, it served as a reminder of
the headwinds faced by the global economy as a result of the
region's debt crisis.
* Also in the euro zone, finance ministers will give a
tentative go-ahead for the disbursement of 44 billion euros in
emergency loans to Greece on Tuesday, but the money will only be
paid on Dec. 5 if the country meets all remaining conditions.
* The S&P 500 index had fallen 5.3 percent between election
day and the start of the rebound as angst over the prospects of
a deal gave investors reason to sell stocks broadly in an effort
to limit the tax hit both this year and in 2013.
* President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress hope to start
serious negotiations after this week's Thanksgiving holiday on
Thursday on how to avoid the "fiscal cliff," which has
politicians and economists worried about the direction of the
world's largest economy.
* S&P 500 futures rose 1.1 points and were roughly
even with 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 rose 2
points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 3 points.
* Economic data expected on Tuesday includes housing starts
and permits data for October at 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT). Economists
in a Reuters survey forecast a 840,000 annualized rate versus
872,000 in September, and a total of 865,000 permits compared
with 890,000 in the prior month.
* Later in the session at 12:15 p.m (1715 GMT), Federal
Reserve's Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks before the Economic Club
of New York, a speech that may offer a fresh chance to gauge the
Fed's appetite for more monetary stimulus. Market participants
currently expect the Fed to step up asset purchases in 2013
after Operation Twist expires.
* Best Buy reports quarterly results, expected to
show a fall in earnings per shares to $0.12 from $0.47, as the
world's largest consumer electronics chain struggles to fend off
online and discount rivals. Investors are awaiting word on
whether founder and top shareholder Richard Schulze comes
through with a formal bid to take the company private.
* As earnings season draws to a close, other companies
expected to post earnings Tuesday include Salesforce.com Inc
, Campbell Soup Co , H.J. Heinz Co and
* European shares edged lower on Tuesday, with France's CAC
40 index among the worst hit after ratings agency
Moody's stripped the euro zone's No. 2 economy of its top credit
* Asian shares rose on hopes of a compromise in the U.S.
fiscal cliff negotiations.