Stocks: Waiting for Ben Bernanke

By CNN Money Staff

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Stock markets were set for a cautious start Wednesday as investors wait for further comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

U.S. stock futures were little changed from Tuesday’s closing levels.

Bernanke is back in the spotlight Wednesday as he prepares to deliver his semiannual testimony on monetary policy before the House Financial Services Comittee at 9 a.m. Central time.

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Many are expecting Bernanke to repeat recent remarks, gently explaining that the central bank might begin pulling back on its massive bond-buying program later this year if the U.S. economy continues to improve.

“We’re not expecting any surprises in the testimony text,” said London-based Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets. “If there is any excitement, like last time it’ll be in the [question and answer session].”

Investors have been keeping a close eye on movements at the Fed, since the central bank’s quantitative easing measures have kept the markets awash with liquidity and helped spur recent stock market highs.

The Fed will also release the latest edition of its Beige Book, a report on regional economies, at 2:00 p.m. ET, while the Census Bureau will publish data on housing starts and building permits at 8:30 a.m.

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In the corporate world, Bank of America is set to release its second-quarter results before the opening bell. Fellow Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs reported Tuesday that its quarterly earnings had doubled from a year earlier, with a boost from investment banking.

Results are due Wednesday afternoon from firms including IBM, Intel, eBay and Aerican Express.

U.S. stocks fell slightly Tuesday as investors considered a batch of mixed corporate results.

Yahoo shares slipped in after-hours trading after the company reported quarterly sales that fell slightly short of both Wall Street’s expectations and its own results from a year ago.

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CSX shares rose in after-hours trading Tuesday after the rail company reported quarterly earnings that beat expectations.

European markets were all edging higher in morning trading, while Asian markets closed with mixed results. The Shanghai Composite index dipped fell by 1 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index and Tokyo’s Nikkei each moved slightly higher.