US STOCKS-Futures flat with Bernanke testimony on tap

Last Updated: Wed, Jul 17, 2013 11:30 hrs

* Mattel, Bank of New York report earnings

* Housing starts, Beige Book data due

* Futures: Dow flat, S&P up 0.6 pts, Nasdaq 5 pts

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, July 17 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Wednesday, indicating the S&P 500 may hold near recent record highs, ahead of testimony from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

* Bernanke is expected to balance a message of enduring central bank support for the U.S. economy with a reminder the Fed's ultra-easy policies cannot last forever in his semiannual monetary policy report before the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee at 10:00 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT). The panel plans to make Bernanke's prepared remarks public at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT).

* Financial markets have been highly sensitive to speculation over when the Fed will start to scale back its bond buying program. Comments by Bernanke and minutes from a Fed meeting in late May triggered a 6-percent drop in the S&P 500 in the month that followed.

* But a steady stream of statements from Bernanke and Fed officials in recent weeks has placated investors and erase those declines, with the S&P rallying to fresh record highs on Monday.

* The pace of corporate earnings continues to pick up, with reports expected from American Express Co, eBay Inc , IBM and Intel Corp.

* S&P 500 futures rose 0.6 point and were slightly above 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 were flat, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 5 points.

* Also on the day's agenda, housing starts and permits data for June will be released at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a 959,000 annualized rate in June versus 914,000 in May.

* Later in the session at 2:00 p.m. (1800 GMT), the Fed will release its Beige Book of regional economic conditions.

* Analysts expect S&P 500 companies' second-quarter earnings to have grown 3 percent from a year earlier, with revenue up 1.5 percent, according to data from Thomson Reuters.

* Of the 36 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported second-quarter results through Tuesday morning, 63.9 percent beat analysts' expectations, and 55.6 percent beat revenue estimates.

* Mattel Inc, the world's largest toymaker, reported a far weaker-than-expected profit as sales of Barbie dolls fell again.

* BNY Mellon Corp said second-quarter revenue and profit surged on a $184 million pre-tax gain from an equity investment.

* European shares erased early gains after minutes from a Bank of England meeting showed all policymakers voted against extending the bank's bond purchase program, which has helped underpin a rally in equities.

* Asian shares steadied, with the MSCI Asia-Pacific ex-Japan index up 0.05 percent and Seoul shares advancing 1.1 percent ahead of Bernanke's congressional testimony.

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