(By Balachander) U.S. stock index futures pointed to a modestly higher open ahead of a 2-day Federal Reserve meeting amid optimism that the central bank will act to stimulate the economy.
Mini Dow Industrial Average futures added 30 points to 12,716.00. The Nasdaq Futures rose 10.5 points to 2,598.00. Standard and Poor's 500 futures edged 2.9 points higher to 1,343.80.
On the domestic front, housing starts in the United States fell 4.8 percent to 708,000 for May, while permits for future building construction rose 7.9 percent to 780,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Economists expected housing starts at 720,000 and building permits of 728,000. In April, housing starts and building permits were revised to 744,000 and 723,000, respectively.
Investors keenly wait for any comments from the U.S. central bank and Chairman Ben Bernanke to spur economic growth.
In European news, the yield on Spain's 10-year government bond remained above 7.13 percent, a level at which Greece and Portugal were forced to seek bailouts. In Greece, efforts are underway to form a coalition government.
On Monday, U.S. stocks ended on a mixed note as investors weighed developments in Europe, including spike in Spanish borrowing costs and election results in Greece.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: FDX, ORCL, WAG, MSFT, JCP, IHS
In corporate news, FedEx Corp. (NYSE:FDX) lost 2.03 percent in premarket after the package delivery giant forecast first-quarter earnings that trailed Wall Street projections. The Memphis, Tennessee-based company guided earnings per share of $1.45 to $1.60, below consensus of $1.70 per share for the first quarter.
Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ:ORCL) gained 5.16 percent in premarket after the Redwood City, California-based enterprise software company posted better than expected earnings for the fourth quarter. ORCL also announced it will repurchase up to $10 million shares.
Walgreen Co. (NYSE:WAG) dropped 3.32 percent in premarket. The drugstore chain said it will be paying $6.7 billion to acquire a 45 percent stake in U.K.'s health and beauty retailer Alliance Boots. The Deerfield, Illinois-based company, which raised its quarterly dividend by 22 percent, also reported a fall in third-quarter earnings as prescription sales fell.
Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) launched its own tablet computer, Surface, rivaling Apple's iPad. Shares edged higher in premarket.
J.C. Penney Company Inc. (NYSE:JCP) retreated 5.47 in premarket. The retailer announced the departure of its President Michael Francis, just eights months since he assumed the role.
IHS Inc. (NYSE:IHS) declined 3.82 percent in premarket after the Englewood, Colorado-based market researcher announced a secondary public offering of 8 million shares of its Class A common stock by Conscientia Investment Ltd., the selling stockholder.
European markets rose, with Germany's DAX gaining 0.59 percent to trade at 6,285.17. France's CAC40 added 0.53 percent to trade at 3,082.48. U.K.'s FTSE 100 advanced 1.04 percent to trade at 5,548.38.
Among Asian markets, the Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.65 percent to end at 2,301.00. Hong Kong's Hang Seng edged 0.06 percent lower to close at 19,416.67.Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.75 percent to end at 8,655.87. India's BSE Sensex finished at 16,859.80, up 0.92 percent.
Ahead of the opening bell, crude oil futures gained 0.35 percent to $83.56 per barrel. Gold futures added 0.23 percent to $1,630.7 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro traded 0.31 percent higher against the U.S. dollar at 1.2616, and the British pound remained flat against the greenback at 1.5667. The dollar dipped 0.23 percent against the Japanese yen to 78.9300.