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Stock futures maintain Putin-inspired gains after CPI, housing data

U.S. stock futures turned higher Tuesday after Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a speech that he does not want Ukraine divided further while he asserted that the Crimea region should be under Russian sovereignty.

Stock-index futures held gains after economic reports had housing starts down 0.2 percent in February, compared to estimates calling for a 3.4 percent rise. The consumer-price index, a measure of inflation, rose 0.1 percent, matching its rise in January and estimates.

(Read more: Live Blog: Putin: Crimea as part of Ukraine a 'shocking injustice')

Earlier, the market had indicated a slightly lower opening on Wall Street, as the U.S. Federal Reserve begins a two-day policy meeting.

Stocks rallied on Monday, with the Dow industrials rebounding after a five-day losing streak, as voting in Crimea passed without violence and after economic reports had U.S. manufacturing output jumping the most in six months in February.

On Monday, President Barack Obama imposed sanctions against Russian officials after voters in Crimea on Sunday endorsed separating from Ukraine to join Russia. The U.S. announcement came after the European Union announced travel bans and asset freezes on 21 people.

While Ukraine has dominated markets in recent weeks—as has concern about China's growth—the Fed is set to return to investor focus as Chairman Janet Yellen begins he first FOMC meeting.

A note from Deutsche Bank on Tuesday said: "Whilst the huge weight of Fed speak so far this year suggests another $10 billion taper there is debate as to what the Fed will do with its forward guidance, specifically the 6.5 percent unemployment rate threshold that seems fast headed to irrelevance given the unemployment rate is hovering at 6.7 percent.

"The challenge the Fed faces is altering its guidance without leading the market to bring forward expectation of future rate hikes."

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