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.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was falling 5/32, boosting the yield to 2.050%. The dollar was up 0.12%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

In corporate news, Dell ( DELL) announced fourth-quarter earnings of 40 cents a share on $14.3 billion in revenue, which was off 11% year over year, but up 4% from the fiscal third quarter. Analysts expected 39 cents a share on $14.1 billion. Shares were off 0.04% in premarket trading.

Dell did not provide outlook for the first quarter as it cited the company's recent move to go private.

Tesla Motors ( TSLA) is expected by analysts to report a fourth-quarter loss of 53 cents a share on $298.9 million in revenue. Shares of the electric vehicle manufacturer were rising more than 1% in early trades.

Toll Brothers ( TOL) reported a profit of 3 cents a share on revenue of $424.6 million. The report came in worse-than-expected as analysts were forecasting a profit of 11 cents a share on $500.6 million in revenue. The company said its backlog at Jan. 31 was $1.86 billion, which was up 66% from a year ago. Shares were sinking more than 2.5% in the early morning session.

Boeing ( BA) engineers accepted a new four-year contract, but technical workers voted to authorize a future strike as they rejected their contract offer. The news comes amid Boeing's troubles with the battery on its Dreamliner jets. The company has discovered a fix to the battery problem, Reuters reported. Shares were adding nearly 1.5% in premarket.

Electronics giant Sony ( SNE) was expected to unveil its latest gaming console, PlayStation 4. The company is holding the event in New York. American depositary receipts were rising about 0.5% in the premarket.

Dish Network ( DISH) reported earnings of 46 cents a share on revenue of $3.59 billion. Revenue dropped against a year ago, while earnings fell from 70 cents a year earlier. Analysts were looking for 51 cents a share on revenue of $3.56 billion. Shares lost 2.3% on Tuesday.

Herbalife ( HLF) reported earnings and revenue rose in the fourth quarter against the same time last year. The stock has received much attention as investors Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman have publicly disagreed over the worth of the company. Shares were off 0.48% in premarket trades.

Bank of America ( BAC) CEO Brian Moynihan's 2012 pay totaled some $12 million, including $11.1 million in restricted shares. The bank head earned $7 million in 2011. Shares were increasing 0.08% in the early session.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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