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Stock Futures Up as Housing Starts Rise

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were rebounding Wednesday after a better-than-expected housing starts report helped divert some of the market's attention away from troubles in the eurozone.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were rising 63 points, or 70 points above fair value, at 12,668. Futures for the S&P 500 were up 7.8 points, or 7.8 points above fair value, at 1,336, and futures for the Nasdaq were ahead by 15 points, or 14.3 points above fair value, at 2,593.

On Tuesday, the major U.S. equity indices all finished at their worst levels in more than three months as Greece's ongoing uncertainty continued to damage sentiment.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that housing starts rose to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 717,000 in April from an upwardly revised 699,000 units in March, topping economists' expectations.

Building permits fell to a pace of 715,000 units in April from an upwardly revised 769,000 in March, worse than the fall to 730,000 expected by economists.

Also on the U.S. economic calendar Wednesday are industrial production and capacity utilization for April at 9:15 a.m.

The Federal Reserve is expected to report that industrial production rose 0.6% in April after being unchanged in March, and that capacity utilization rose to 79% in April after rising to 78.6% in March.

Minutes of the last meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee will be released at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

London's FTSE was shedding 1% and the DAX in Germany was off 0.9% as investors continued to fear that the political upheaval in Greece would result in the country's exit from the eurozone and threaten to destabilize the continent.

After being unable to form a coalition government amid vastly conflicting views on the country's austerity measures, Greece now faces new elections in June. Still, the leaders of France and Germany, who met in Berlin Tuesday, indicated that Greece should stay in the single-currency bloc and that they would consider new ways to stimulate economic growth in the country.

Amid the uncertainty about Greece's future, €700 million was withdrawn from the Greek banking system recently, the country's president, Karolos Papoulias, said.

The euro fell to a four-month low against the dollar Wednesday.

In other headlines, Spain's prime minister Mariano Rajoy said in parliament Wednesday that the country could be ostracized by the financial markets if it didn't proceed with its austerity package.

The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong fell 3.2% and Japan's Nikkei average finished down 1.1%.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was unchanged, with the yield at 1.772%. The dollar was up 0.2%, according to the dollar index.

The June crude oil contract was off $1.60 at $92.38 a barrel. June gold futures were falling $22 to $1,535 an ounce.

In corporate news, Deere (DE - Get Report), the farm machinery manufacturer, reported second-quarter earnings of $1.06 billion, or $2.61 a share, up from year-earlier profit of $904.3 million, or $2.12 a share. Analysts, on average, expected earnings of $2.53 a share. Deere also raised earnings guidance for the year to $3.35 billion.

Target (TGT - Get Report) reported Wednesday first-quarter net earnings of $697 million, or $1.04 a share, up from $689 million, or 99 cents a share, a year earlier. First-quarter adjusted earnings were $1.11 a share. Analysts, on average, anticipated Target would post a profit of $1.01 a share on revenue of $16.86 billion.

J.C. Penney (JCP) reported a wider-than-expected quarterly adjusted loss of $55 million, or 25 cents a share, and said it was discontinuing its dividend. J.C. Penney expects to have additional restructuring charges in 2012 so it dropped its outlook for GAAP earnings of $1.59 a share for the year. Eliminating the quarterly dividend of 20 cents a share is expected to save J.C. Penney $175 million annually.

Staples (SPLS), the office products retailer, reported first-quarter net income of $187.1 million, or 27 cents a share, down from year-earlier earnings of $198.2 million, or 28 cents. The first quarter included $28 million in pretax expenses, or 3 cents a share, related to staff reductions and a contractual dispute from the acquisition of Corporate Express. On average, analysts expected the company to earn 30 cents a share in the first quarter on sales of $6.18 billion.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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