Wall Street was set for a slight rise at the open on Tuesday ahead of a Federal Reserve statement expected to reiterate the central bank's pledge to keep interest rates extraordinarily low.
Stock index futures rose as data showed U.S. housing starts and permits to build new homes both fell in February as winter storms curbed ground-breaking, but the declines were less than expected.
Housing starts continue at very low levels, and the lower the number, the quicker we get rid of inventories, which are huge, said Gary Shilling, president of A. Gary Shilling & Co in Springfield, New Jersey.
The Fed is seen holding interest rates near zero, and analysts widely expect the bank's statement to say again that high unemployment and low inflation warrant holding borrowing costs exceptionally low for an extended period.
That stance has helped stocks rally as the flow of cheap money encourages investors to look for returns in riskier assets.
Shilling said he does not expect the Fed to alter its policy. They remain very concerned about the state of the economy, since employment remains dreadful, and consumers are cautious, he said.
S&P 500 futures rose 3.5 points and were 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 gained 12 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 6.0 points.
Limited Brands Inc's
Goldman Sachs said in a research note it sees a more than 50 percent chance healthcare overhaul legislation will pass and adjusted its ratings on numerous healthcare companies.
Goldman removed Teva Pharmaceutical Industries
Discussions on the healthcare reform have made investors cautious as they scramble to gauge the implications of legislation on profits for the sector's companies.
Stocks were little changed on Monday, with the Dow edging up for a fifth straight day, as a late rebound in financial stocks offset nagging worries the Chinese government may tighten credit, a move that could slow the global economy's recovery.
(Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)