Stock futures little changed ahead of Bernanke, data

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By Angela Moon | February 28, 2013 12:14 AM EST

Stock index futures were little changed on Wednesday as investors awaited a second round of testimony in Congress by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for signs of whether the Fed will continue its economic stimulus program.

Economic data was also in focus with U.S. durables goods and homes data due out at 8:30 a.m. ET (1330) GMT and 10:00 a.m. ET (1500 GMT), respectively.

Bernanke is due to make his second appearance before the Financial Services Committee at 10:00 a.m. ET (1500 GMT).

A day earlier, Bernanke strongly defended the Fed's monetary stimulus efforts before Congress, easing financial market worries over an early retreat from the Fed's bond buying program, which had been triggered by minutes of the Fed's January meeting released a week ago.

His remarks, along with data showing sales of new homes hit a 4 1/2-year high, helped U.S. stocks rebound Tuesday from their worst decline since November.

Despite the bounce, the S&P 500 was unable to move back above 1,500, a closely watched level that was technical support until recently, but could now serve as a resistance point.

The S&P 500, up 6 percent for the year, was within reach of all-time highs a week ago before the minutes from the Fed's January meeting were released. Those minutes raised questions about the longevity of the Fed's economy-stimulating measures and since then, the benchmark S&P 500 has fallen 1 percent.

S&P 500 futures rose 2.5 points and were in line with fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 1 points while Nasdaq 100 futures rose 0.25 point.

In Europe, Italian debt prices and European stocks briefly rose after Italy sold the maximum amount of bonds it planned to offer in a debt auction though borrowing costs soared.

Italian 10-year yields fell 7 basis points to 4.83 percent while the Bund future was last 25 ticks up on the day at 145.15 after the sale.

The euro fell to $1.3098 from a session high of $1.3123 just before the results of the Italian bond auction were announced.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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