Futures Still Higher After Inflation, Housing News

U.S. stock index futures remained higher ahead of the open Wednesday after news that inflation remains tame, but housing starts were weak, as investors looked ahead to a massive stock offering from General Motors.

The potential bailout of Irish government debt and prospects of a China-led slowdown continued to weigh on investor sentiment.

Data on consumer prices confirmed the Federal Reserve's concerns with inflation, as the reading for the core consumer price index was the smallest year-on-year increase on record, according to the Labor Department.

The October CPI rose 0.2 percent, less than expected, after a 0.1 rise in September, but core CPI remained unchanged. The annual increase in the core CPI of 0.6 percent was the smallest since records started in 1957, the Labor Department said.

Meanwhile, housing starts hit an 18-month lowin October, falling 11.7 percent to a 519,000 annual rate from a 588,000 in September. The slide reflected a slowdown in building multiunit homes, according to the Commerce Department.

U.S. mortgage applications fell to their lowest level in four months last week as loans rates inceased, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The Energy Information Administration will release its reading on U.S. oil and gasoline inventories at 10:30 am.

In corporate news, General Motors confirmed it willincrease the size of its initial public offering by 30 percent. The IPO is set to be the largest in U.S. history if the automaker manages to raise the expected $22.4 billion.

Target was higher after forecasting the best same-store sales in three years, and earnings results that were in line with expectations. The discounter benefited from a credit card program that rewards customers with a 5 percent discount.

Chico's rose in the premarket after reporting stronger-than-expected revenues thanks largely to improved sales for trendier fashions at his White House/Black Market chain for the third quarter.

Human Genome Sciences and GlaxoSmithKline rose in premarket trading after news a U.S. Food and Drug Administration Panel approved a drug the companies developed to treat lupus.

European shares were mostly higher after declines in the previous session, but concerns over the Irish debt crisis were lingering. The European Commission, International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank will send a team to Ireland to prepare possible steps to help the country's troubled banking sector. The team will start work Thursday.

Asian stocks ended mostly in the red with Chinese and Hong Kong indexes suffering severe declines. Japanese stocks ended in the green. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the government would attempt to tame food price inflation in the region with potential price control measures.

On Tap This Week:

WEDNESDAY: Oil inventories, St. Louis Fed Pres Bullard speaks, GM IPO pricing, LA auto show kicks off, Qualcomm analyst meeting; Earnings from Applied Materials.
THURSDAY: Weekly jobless claims, leading indicators, Philadelphia Fed survey, Cisco shareholder meeting; Earnings from Dell and Gap.
FRIDAY: Bernanke speaks at ECB Central Banking Conference, Harry Potter movie premieres.

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