* Housing starts, Fed minutes on tap
* Tesla to report earnings after the close
* Futures down: Dow 6 pts, S&P 6 pts, Nasdaq 8.25 pts
NEW YORK, Feb 19 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures fell on Wednesday on investor caution ahead of the release of housing data and minutes from the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting of policymakers.
* Housing starts data, due at 8:30 a.m. EST (1330 GMT), will provide a glimpse into the possible impact of a severe U.S. winter on recent economic data. On Tuesday, data showed U.S. homebuilder confidence suffered its largest one-month drop ever in February, suggesting recent signs of weakness in the economy may reflect deeper problems than the winter’s impact.
* At 2:00 p.m. EST, the U.S. central bank will release minutes of its January policy meeting, at which it decided to further trim its monthly bond buying program.
* Tesla shares were in focus after they hit an all-time high of $206.00 in the previous session. Shares of the company, which reports earnings after the close, were down 1.1 percent in premarket trading.
* S&P 500 e-mini futures fell 6 points and were below 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 6 points and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 8.25 points.
* Currency dealers kept an eye on China’s central bank after it drained funds from the money market on Tuesday. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) is trying to engineer a gradual upward shift in the cost of money to encourage companies to deleverage and discourage high-risk shadow banking activity.
* Investors were anxious in case the monetary tightening in the world’s second-largest economy goes too far and hurts economic growth. Such concerns have periodically put pressure on global currencies and shares.
* Herbalife LTD shares were up 1.5 percent in premarket trading a day after the nutritional-supplement company reported fourth-quarter earnings.
* Kay Jewelers parent Signet Jewelers said it would acquire smaller rival Zale Corp for $21 per share in cash, valuing the mid-tier jeweler at about $690 million. The offer represents a premium of about 41 percent to Zale’s close of $14.91 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. Shares of Signet gained 13.9 percent in premarket trading while Zale jumped more than 40 percent.
* On Tuesday, the Nasdaq Composite rose for an eighth straight session, a run not seen since early July.