* Bank of America edges up after earnings
* Housing starts, Beige Book data due
* Futures: Dow off 1 pt, S&P up 0.5 pts, Nasdaq up 3.5 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, July 17 U.S. stock index futures were
little changed on Wednesday, after the S&P snapped an eight-day
winning streak that had vaulted the benchmark index to fresh
record highs, ahead of testimony from U.S. Federal Reserve
Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Bernanke is expected to balance a message of enduring
central bank support for the U.S. economy with a reminder that
the Fed's ultra-easy policies cannot last forever, in a
semiannual monetary policy report before the House of
Representatives Financial Services Committee at 10:00 a.m. EDT
(1400 GMT). The panel plans to make Bernanke's prepared remarks
public at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT).
Financial markets have been highly sensitive to speculation
over when the Fed will start to scale back its bond buying
program. Comments by Bernanke and minutes from a Fed meeting in
late May triggered a 6-percent drop in the S&P 500 in the
month that followed.
But statements from Bernanke and Fed officials in recent
weeks have placated investors and erased those declines, with
the S&P rallying to fresh record highs on Monday.
"The market ended an eight-session winning streak on the
back of some earnings and caution ahead of Bernanke's
testimony," said Andre Bakhos, director of market analytics at
Lek Securities in New York.
"Coming into today, the market has a good feel of what the
Fed's intentions are; however, a statement from the chairman
could shake out some of the recent gains or thrust us to new
Bank of America Corp edged up 0.1 percent to $13.94
in premarket trade after the second-biggest U.S. bank by assets
reported a 70 percent jump in second-quarter profit, helped
partly by lower operating expenses.
The pace of corporate earnings continues to pick up, with
reports expected from American Express Co, eBay Inc
, IBM and Intel Corp.
S&P 500 futures rose 0.5 point and were slightly
above 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
down 1 point, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 3.5 points.
Also on the day's agenda, housing starts and permits data
for June will be released at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT). Economists in
a Reuters survey forecast a 959,000 annualized rate in June
versus 914,000 in May.
Later in the session at 2:00 p.m. (1800 GMT), the Fed will
release its Beige Book of regional economic conditions.
Analysts expect S&P 500 companies' second-quarter earnings
to have grown 3 percent from a year earlier, with revenue up 1.5
percent, according to data from Thomson Reuters.
Of the 36 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported
results through Tuesday morning, 63.9 percent beat analysts'
expectations, and 55.6 percent surpassed revenue estimates.
Mattel Inc, the world's largest toymaker, reported a
far weaker-than-expected profit as sales of Barbie dolls fell
BNY Mellon Corp said second-quarter revenue and
profit surged on a $184 million pre-tax gain from an equity
European shares turned positive after losses earlier in the
day, with gains at major financial and mining stocks buoying
Asian shares steadied, with the MSCI Asia-Pacific ex-Japan
index up 0.05 percent and Seoul shares
advancing 1.1 percent ahead of Bernanke's congressional