* Futures up: Dow 49 pts, S&P 5.25 pts, Nasdaq 15 pts
By Sruthi Shankar
Aug 16 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were higher on Wednesday ahead of the minutes on the Federal Reserve’s July policy meeting, which will offer clues on the future path of interest rate hikes.
* The central bank will release the minutes at 1400 ET (1800 GMT) and will be perused for indications on how the debate over the policy outlook is developing.
* Policymakers unanimously decided to keep interest rates unchanged in the July 25-26 meeting and said they planned to reduce the central bank’s massive holdings of bonds “relatively soon.”
* A slide in inflation readings in recent months, which remain below the Fed’s 2 percent target rate, have made the markets skeptical about a rate hike by December.
* However, recent hawkish comments by New York Fed chief William Dudley advocating for another rate hike this year and strong retail sales data on Tuesday have upped the odds.
* Chances of a December hike rose to 49.2 percent, up from 42 percent at the start of the week, according to CME Group’s FedWatch tool.
* U.S. stocks were little changed at the close on Tuesday as declines in Home Depot and other retailers following results offset the upbeat retail sales data and easing tensions between the United States and North Korea.
* North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has delayed a decision on firing missiles towards Guam while he waits to see what the United States does, North Korea’s state media reported on Tuesday as the United States said any dialogue was up to Kim.
* Data on tap is the Commerce Department’s report on U.S. housing starts, which is expected to show homebuilding little changed in July. The report is due at 8:30 a.m. ET
* Shares of Target rose 4.05 percent in premarket trading following its quarterly report showing a 1.3 percent rise in quarterly same-store sales after a year of declines.
* Urban Outfitters rose 17.8 percent after the apparel retailer reported quarterly profit and sales that beat estimates, leading to multiple price target raises.
* Amazon edged lower after U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted the retail giant was doing “great damage” to tax paying retailers.
* Bristol-Myers Squibb was down about 4 percent after its combination drug to treat previously untreated patients with a type of kidney cancer failed to meet one of the main goals of a late-stage trial.
Futures snapshot at 7:03 a.m. ET:
* Dow e-minis were up 49 points, or 0.22 percent, with 18,517 contracts changing hands.
* S&P 500 e-minis were up 5.25 points, or 0.21 percent, with 108,532 contracts traded.
* Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 15 points, or 0.25 percent, on volume of 23,799 contracts. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)