U.S. stock index futures held their losses Wednesday following a cautious outlook from Intel and ahead of a second day of Congressional testimony from Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke.
On the economic front, housing starts rose 6.9 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 760,000 units, logging its fastest pace in over three years, according to the Commerce Department. Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected a reading of 745,000-unit rate.
Bernanke will be in focus again as he delivers his semiannual report to the House Financial Services Committee, a day after he testified before the Senate Banking Committee.
Bernanke offered a grim economic outlook, but repeated his pledge that the Fed “is prepared to take further action" as needed, helping stocks close higher as investors remained hopeful that the central bank may still be open to further easing.
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the economy is "definitely slower," but defended the Obama administration's actions and said Washington needs to take aggressive action to promote growth.
Speaking at the "Delivering Alpha" conference presented by CNBC and Institutional Investor, Geithner rejected the idea that the economy is headed for another recession.