Market Hustle: Stock Futures Shrug Off Fall in Housing Starts

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were shrugging off weaker-than-expected housing data Tuesday after Russian President Vladimir Putin calmed the markets by saying in a speech that he doesn't want to see a split Ukraine.

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were gaining 58 points, or 52.78 points above fair value, to 16,224. S&P 500 futures were up 6.75 points, or 6.32 points above fair value, to 1,857.5. Nasdaq futures were higher by 12.3 points, or 9.79 points above fair value, to 3,663.8.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin provided reassurances in a speech Tuesday that he doesn't want see Ukraine split, following his move to fast-track the annexation of Crimea. "Don't believe those who try to frighten you with Russia and who scream that other regions will follow after Crimea," said Putin. "We do not want a partition of Ukraine; we do not need this."
  • Putin earlier signed off on a draft bill to annex Crimea after a weekend referendum indicated that citizens of the peninsula broadly support parting from Ukraine. The U.S. and EU, which deemed the referendum illegal, have imposed sanctions in retaliation, but they've largely been perceived as "toothless."
  • February housing starts in the U.S. fell by 0.2%, compared with expectations of a 3.4% increase. Meanwhile, inflation for the month rose 0.1%, in line with expectations.
  • The Federal Reserve kicks off its two-day policy meeting Tuesday with a rates announcement expected the following day. Goldman Sachs' chief economist Jan Hatzius forecast in a note that the Fed's exit from its current highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will be "a long time in coming." He continues to expect the first quarter of 2016 as the "liftoff date" for the fed funds target rate.
  • The central bank is generally expected to continue trimming its asset purchases at the pace of $10 billion a month.
  • European markets were down after a softer-than-forecast German ZEW index of investor confidence. The FTSE in London was down 0.22% and the DAX in Germany was shedding 0.57%. Asian markets followed the stronger U.S. market action of the prior session. The Hong Kong Hang Seng settled up 0.51%, and the Nikkei 225 in Japan finished higher by 0.94%.
  • U.S. stocks closed higher Monday in a relief rally after the absence of military violence surrounding the weekend's Crimea vote, and as domestic industrial production rebounded.
  • Hewlett-Packard was adding on more than 2% after the stock was hiked to "overweight" from "equal weight" at Barclays. American Express is poised for action Tuesday after agreeing to sell 50% of its Global Business Travel division for $900 million to a group led by Certares International Bank. Microsoft was up 0.66% after Reuters reported that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella may unveil an iPad version of the company's Office software suite on March 27.
  • Software maker Oracle is expected by analysts on Tuesday to report fiscal third-quarter earnings of 70 cents a share on revenue of $9.36 billion. Adobe Systems , the maker of enterprise software, is forecast by Wall Street on Tuesday to post fiscal first-quarter profit of 25 cents a share

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York