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Stock Futures Weak Ahead of Housing Data, FOMC Minutes

Tickers in this article: GS LOW SPLS TGT ^DJI ^GSPC ^IXIC

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were drifting lower Wednesday as the market awaited housing market data and the latest Federal Open Market Committee meeting minutes that could provide more clues on when the Federal Reserve may taper its stimulative bond-buying program of $85 billion a month. Investors were also digesting a batch of mixed earnings reports.

Futures for the S&P 500 were falling 2.5 points, or 1.85 points below fair value, to 1,648. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were slipping 20 points, or 8.99 points below fair value, to 14,965. Futures for the Nasdaq were shedding 3.75 points, or 4.07 points below fair value, to 3,077.25.

The S&P 500 snapped a four-day losing streak Tuesday as upbeat retail earnings reports provided investors with some relief from the constant Federal Reserve tapering chatter plaguing markets worldwide.

Minutes from the July meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee will be released at 2 p.m. EDT.

Aside from the FOMC minutes, there will also be housing market data including July existing-home sales numbers at 10 a.m.

The National Association of Realtors is expected to report that existing homes sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.15 million from a pace of 5.08 million a month earlier.

"The market continues to operate in a vacuum as the absence of any meaningful direction from economic data on the tone of economic activity or the Fed in recent days have resulted in financial markets gyrating wildly in the relatively thin trading," Millan Mulraine, a New York-based senior U.S. macro strategist at TD Securities, said in a note. "The market dynamics should change today with the release of the July existing homes data and the Minutes of the July FOMC meeting."

Before the market open, data showed that U.S. home loan applications declined a second consecutive week for the week of Aug. 16, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity covering refinancing and home purchase demand slipped 4.6% as 30-year mortgage rates climbed 12 basis points to 4.68%.

Target was falling 1.96% to $66.62 after the discount retailer posted second-quarter revenue of $17.12 billion, which missed sales expectations of $17.28 billion, and said it now expects full-year earnings per share to be near the low end of its previous guidance of $4.70 to $4.90 amid continued cautious spending by consumers in the face of ongoing household budget pressures.

Staples was plummeting by 10.15% to $15.13 after the office products company missed second-quarter earnings estimates by 2 cents at 16 cents a share and posted lower-than-expected revenue amid weak international sales and customer traffic. The company has slashed its full-year guidance.

Lowe's reported second-quarter earnings of 88 cents a share on revenue of $15.71 billion, beating the average analyst earnings estimate of 79 cents a share on revenue of $15.06 billion thanks to the strengthening housing market. Shares were popping more than 4% to $46.01.