Stocks Poised to Open Near Multi-Year Highs

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U.S. stock-index futures were little changed Wednesday, suggesting the broad S&P 500 would open near its highest level since 2007.

Today's Markets

As of 8:45 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 1 point to 14006, S&P 500 futures dipped 0.75 point to 1527 and Nasdaq 100 futures slipped 0.75 point to 2780.

The markets kicked off the week on a high note Tuesday, with the S&P 500 and Dow logging their highest closes in five years. Meanwhile, the tech-heavy Nasdaq is sitting at its best mark in more than a decade.

The pace of merger and acquisition activity continued to heat up Wednesday, with Office Depot (NYSE:ODP) revealing plans to buy OfficeMax (NYSE:OMX) in an all-stock deal. Based on the February 19 closing price, that values OfficeMax at roughly $13.50 a share.

The focus was also expected to shift to the economy, with several economic reports and minutes from the Federal Reserve on tap.

The Commerce Department said U.S. housing starts fell 8.5% in January from December to an annualized rate of 890,000 units, shy of the 925,000 expectation. Permits to build new homes rose 1.8% to an annualized rate of 925,000, better than the 915,000 Wall Street anticipated, and the highest since 2008.

"The pullback in starts for January was certainly larger than the consensus expected but is by no means shocking," Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG wrote in an email."Importantly though, permits rose again suggesting that the January decline in starts will be temporary and as the year progresses, housing starts will continue to push higher."

Homebuilders, such as KH Home (NYSE:KBH), could be particularly impacted by these data.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department said prices at the producer level rose 0.2% in January from December, a slower pace than the 0.4% economists expected. Excluding the food and energy components, prices were also up 0.2%, matching forecasts.

Later in the day, the Federal Reserve is set to release minutes from its policy-setting meeting in January. Analysts at Nomura wrote in a note to clients that this could be a "market mover" as traders look to see whether the central bank plans to pull back on quantitative easing earlier than some expected amid a relatively upbeat economic backdrop. There have been concerns that the very aggressive asset purchases could start a bubble in the credit markets.

In commodities, oil prices were little changed. The benchmark U.S. contract climbed 8 cents, or 0.08%, to $96.74 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline fell 0.78% to $3.097 a gallon. Gold dropped $10.90, or 0.67%, to $1,694 a troy ounce -- hitting a fresh six-month low.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 fell 0.22% to 2657, the English FTSE 100 rose 0.4% to 6405 and the German DAX climbed 0.15% to 7764.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rallied 0.84% to 11468 and the Chinese Hang Seng jumped 0.71% to 23307.