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* U.S. housing starts, permits tumble in Jan
* Fed minutes due at 2:00 p.m. EST
* Indexes: Dow up 0.3 pct; S&P flat; Nasdaq down 0.3 pct
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, Feb 19 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were mixed on Wednesday amid caution ahead of the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's most recent policy meeting, and as investors brushed off weak housing data.
The Dow Jones industrial average index rebounded after underperforming the broader market in the previous session, led by gains in Chevron and American Express.
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 in February.
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.
"The market is anxious about what the Federal Reserve minutes will look like. I don't expect anything surprising but they might hint at the weakness in the fourth quarter due to weather-related factors," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
"What we are seeing today in the market is just technical trading of fear since the S&P 500 is just a few points away from record high."
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 40.49 points, or 0.25 percent, to 16,170.89, the S&P 500 gained 0.37 points, or 0.02 percent, to 1,841.13 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 14.249 points, or 0.33 percent, to 4,258.535.
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 2.5 percent at $198.96.
Herbalife LTD shares were down about 1 percent at $68.28 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 15.8 percent to $91.78 while Zale jumped more than 40 percent to $20.90.
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.