* 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 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
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
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
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.