* U.S. housing starts, permits tumble in Jan
* Fed minutes on tap
* Tesla to report earnings after the close
* Futures down: Dow 37 pts, S&P 4 pts, Nasdaq 3.5 pts
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, Feb 19 Wall Street was set to open
lower on Wednesday amid caution ahead of the release of minutes
from the Federal Reserve's most recent policy meeting, even as
investors brushed off weak housing data.
* U.S. housing starts recorded their biggest drop in almost
three years in January, likely due to harsh winter weather,
though the third month of declines in permits pointed to some
underlying weakness in the housing market.
* The data was among a slew of recent economic reports
impacted by a severe U.S. winter, including U.S. homebuilder
confidence on Tuesday which suffered its largest one-month drop
* At 2:00 p.m. EST (1900 GMT), the U.S. central bank will
release minutes of its January policy meeting, at which it
decided to further trim its monthly bond buying program.
* Tesla shares were in focus after they hit an
all-time high of $206.00 in the previous session. Shares of the
company, which reports earnings after the close, were down 1.1
percent in premarket trading.
* S&P 500 e-mini futures fell 4 points and were 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 fell 37
points and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 3.5 points.
* Currency dealers kept an eye on China's central bank after
it drained funds from the money market on Tuesday. The People's
Bank of China (PBOC) is trying to engineer a gradual upward
shift in the cost of money to encourage companies to deleverage
and discourage high-risk shadow banking activity.
* Investors were anxious in case monetary tightening in
China, the world's second-largest economy, goes too far and
hurts economic growth. Such concerns have periodically put
pressure on global currencies and shares.
* Herbalife LTD shares were up 1.5 percent in
premarket trading a day after the nutritional-supplement company
reported fourth-quarter earnings.
* Kay Jewelers parent Signet Jewelers said it would buy
smaller rival Zale Corp for $21 per share in cash, valuing the
mid-tier jeweler at about $690 million. The offer represents a
premium of about 41 percent to Zale's close of $14.91 on the New
York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. Shares of Signet
gained 13.9 percent in premarket trading while Zale
jumped more than 40 percent.
* Separate data showed U.S. producer prices rose for a
second straight month in January, pushed up by an increase in
the cost of goods, but there was little sign of a broad pick-up
in inflation pressures at the factory gate.
* On Tuesday, the Nasdaq Composite rose for an eighth
straight session, a run not seen since early July.