* 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 (Reuters) - 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 in December.
* 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 season.
* 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.