* Producer Price index, housing data on tap
* Fed minutes due later today
* Futures: Dow up 14 pts, S&P off 0.5 pt, Nasdaq up 2 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Feb 20 U.S. stock index futures were
little changed on Wednesday, ahead of data on the housing market
and inflation, as well as minutes from the Federal Open Market
Committee's January meeting.
* Housing starts and permits for January along with the
January producer price index are due at 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT).
* Economists in a Reuters survey forecast the housing starts
data to show a 925,000-unit annualized rate in January versus
954,000 in December, and a total of 915,000 permits in January
compared with 909,000 in the prior month. PPI is expected to
show a 0.4 percent rise compared with a 0.3 percent drop in
December. Excluding volatile food and energy items, PPI is
expected to rise 0.2 percent versus with a 0.1 percent increase
* Later in the session, investors will look to the minutes
from the Fed's January meeting for any clues on how long the
current monetary policy will remain in effect.
* The S&P 500 is up 7.4 percent for the year, fueled
by legislators' ability to sidestep an automatic implementation
of spending cuts on tax hikes on Jan. 1, better-than-expected
corporate earnings and modestly improving economic data that has
been tepid enough for the Fed to maintain its stimulus policy.
* S&P 500 futures slipped 0.5 point and were 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 rose
14 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 2 points.
* As earnings season winds down, S&P 500 companies set to
report include Devon Energy Corp and Fluor Corp.
* According to the Thomson Reuters data through Tuesday
morning, of the 391 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported
results, 70.1 percent have exceeded analysts' expectations,
compared with a 62 percent average since 1994 and 65 percent
over the past four quarters.
* Fourth-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are
estimated to have risen 5.6 percent, according to the data,
above a 1.9 percent forecast at the start of the earnings
* European shares traded flat, consolidating after the
previous session's sharp gains, held back by weak earnings
newsflow and as traders cited caution ahead of the minutes from
the Fed's January policy meeting.
* Asian shares scaled their highest levels since August 2011
after an improving global economic outlook whetted investor
appetite for risk, while the yen firmed amid doubts over Japan's
commitment to drastic reflation.