Stock Futures Tilt Lower Amid Mixed Housing Data

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U.S. stock-index futures drifted to the downside on Wednesday as traders mulled a mixed report on the market for new homes and awaited for another round of commentary from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

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Today's Markets

As of 8:38 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 39 points to 12698, S&P 500 futures dipped 4.5 points to 1354 and Nasdaq 100 futures slipped 7.8 points to 2579.

The global economy and earnings have once again come into the spotlight as troubles in the eurozone have been put on the back burner for the moment.

Bernanke gave his report on monetary policy to the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday and is expected to give the same testimony today to the House Financial Services Committee. In his remarks on Tuesday, Bernanke gave a subdued economic outlook, and said the central bank stands ready to take more action if necessary. However, the Fed has been reluctant to provide more specific guidance. A question and answer session Wednesday may help shed more light on the situation.

On the data front, the rate at which builders broke ground on new homes jumped to the highest level since October 2008, according to a report by the Commerce Department. Housing starts jumped 6.9% in June from May to a 760,000-unit rate, topping estimates of a 765,000-unit rate. However, permits to build new homes, a more forward-looking indicator, fell 3.7% to a 755,000-unit rate, coming in under the 765,000-unit rate expected. The housing market has been slow to recover as a result of tight lending conditions, a high supply of homes and generally tepid demand.

The markets will also get the Fed's beige book, an anecdotal report on the current economic environment, at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Many big-name companies are reporting second-quarter earnings.

Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) posted second-quarter earnings of 19 cents a share, better than the 14 cents analysts forecast. The blue-chip bank’s revenue, net of interest expense, came in at $22.2 billion, less than the $22.9 billion analysts expected. Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) revealed earnings that were in line with expectations after the close of trading on Tuesday, but the chipmaker lowered its full-year revenue view and warned for slowing growth in the third quarter.

Results from IBM (NYSE:IBM) and American Express (NYSE:AXP) are due after the closing bell.

Oil futures were little changed after five-straight daily advances. The contract traded in New York slipped 31 cents, or 0.35%, to $88.92 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline rose 0.15% to $2.849 a gallon.

In metals, gold slumped $10.70, or 0.67%, to $1,579 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.15% to 2254, the English FTSE 100 gained 0.03% to 5631 and the German DAX edged higher by 0.13% to 6586.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 fell 0.32% to 8727 and the Chinese Hang Seng sold off by 1.1% to 19240.