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Stock Futures Mixed After Housing Starts, PPI

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were mixed Wednesday as fresh housing data came in weaker-than-expected, and as the producer price index was little changed. The news came ahead of the release of the Federal Reserve's minutes from its January meeting.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 1 point, or 0.01%, at 14,008. Futures for the S&P 500 were slipping 1 point, or 0.05%, to 1527. Nasdaq futures were effectively flat with a fair value of 2781.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that U.S. housing starts printed at 890,000 for January, a decrease from a revised 973,000 reported in December. A consensus among analysts was looking for an increase of 914,000.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the January producer price index increased 0.2% month over month. It was better than the December decrease of 0.2%. Consensus among analysts had forecast PPI to rise by 0.3% month over month. Minus food and energy, the index increased 0.2% in January.

Investors continue to monitor the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee -- the policy-making wing of the Fed -- as each report could offer more clarity as to when central bankers intend to end monetary stimulus.

In early January, the FOMC announced surprise dissension among its members as a few said the central bank's highly accommodative policy should end well before the end of 2013, while others argued its longer-term Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities purchasing programs should conclude by the end of 2013. Still, some said the Fed should continue its highly accommodative policy for the near future.

The FTSE 100 in London was adding 0.37% on Wednesday, and the DAX in Frankfurt was climbing 0.11%.

Asian markets closed with stronger gains on Wednesday as Japan's Nikkei average rose 0.84% overnight to close at 11468. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.71% to 23,307.

Gold futures for April delivery were dropping $11.40 to $1,592.80 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while futures for April crude oil contracts were sliding 12 cents to $96.98 a barrel.

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