U.S. stock index futures turned slightly positive Wednesday after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke reiterated the central bank's plan to start paring back its bond-purchase program later this year, but said that could change if the economic outlook shifted.
"Our asset purchases depend on economic and financial developments, but they are by no means on a preset course," according to Bernanke's prepared remarks to the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee.
Bernanke said the pace of asset purchases could be reduced "somewhat more quickly" if economic conditions were to improve faster than expected. On the other hand, the current $85 billion monthly pace "could be maintained for longer" if the labor market outlook darkened, or inflation did not look like it was rising back toward the Fed's 2 percent goal.
Bernanke will deliver his full testimony at 10 am ET, followed by a Q&A session from lawmakers. (CNBC.com will stream the event live.)
On the economic front, housing starts tumbled 9.9 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 836,000 units, according to the Commerce Department, the lowest level since last August. Economists polled by Reuters had expected groundbreaking to rise to a 959,000-unit rate last month.
Mortgage applications fell last week, due to a decline in demand for refinancing loans as mortgage interest rates remained at a two-year high, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Also, the Fed will publish the monthly Beige Book at 2 p.m., its region-by-region assessment of the US economy.
Among earnings, Bank of America climbed after the financial giant posted a 70 percent jump in earnings, thanks to lower operating expenses.
(Read More: Enjoy it while it lasts: Bank earnings face trouble)
(Read More: Earnings preview: Bad news ahead for IBM, Intel?)
Analysts expect S&P 500 companies' second-quarter earnings to have grown 3 percent from a year earlier, with revenue up 1.5 percent, according to the latest data from Thomson Reuters.
In addition, the Delivering Alpha conference, produced by CNBC and Institutional Investor, will take place in New York, featuring major investors including Carl Icahn, Nelson Peltz and John Paulson.
—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
On Tap This Week:
WEDNESDAY: Ben Bernanke speaks, oil inventories, Beige book; Earnings from American Express, Ebay, IBM, Intel, Sandisk
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, Ben Bernanke speaks, Philadelphia Fed survey, leading indicators, natural gas inventories, Fed balance sheet/money supply, Dell special shareholder mtg; Earnings from BlackRock, Morgan Stanley, United Health, Verizon, Nokia, Google, Microsoft, AMD, Capital One, Chipotle
FRIDAY: G20 in Russia; Earnings from GE, Schlumberger, Vodafond, Honeywell
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