Stocks still upbeat after reports

Freddie Mac reports large loss, while housing permits hit 14-year low; investors await Fed minutes.

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NEW YORK(CNNMoney.com) -- Stocks were still poised for a higher open even after the mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac reported a wider loss and a government report showed building permits hit a 14-year low.

At 9 a.m. ET, futures were pointing higher but came off earlier highs on upbeat results from Hewlett-Packard.

Freddie Mac (Charts, Fortune 500), which generally only purchases securities backed by the safest types of mortgages, was hurt by the rising delinquencies and defaults that has hit the subprime sector and other more exotic home loans. The mortgage financing firm reported a large loss along with an $8.1 billion drop in the value of its assets, as it set aside $1.2 billion to cover credit losses.

Shares of the other government-sponsored mortgage finance firm Fannie Mae (Charts) have fallen nearly 25 percent since it reported lower earnings on Nov. 9 that raised questions about its accounting. Shares of Freddie Mac have fallen nearly 15 percent during the same period.

Housing permits fell to a 14-year low in October although housing starts edged up slightly, according to the Commerce Department's latest reading on state of the batter home building market released. The report comes a day after a survey showed home builders' confidence remained at a record low level, as a slight pick-up in customer traffic was offset by a more pessimistic view of a chance of a recovery in housing during the next six months.

Another look at the housing market came after DR Horton (Charts, Fortune 500), one of the nation's largest home builders, reported a much smaller-than-expected loss of $50.1 million, or 16 cents a share, in its fiscal fourth quarter. First Call's forecast is for Horton to report a 66 cent a share loss in the quarter, far worse than the 88 cent a share profit a year ago, but better than the loss of $2.62 a share in the previous period.

Another record low for the dollar against the euro could also weigh on stocks in the early going. The weaker dollar also continues to put upward pressure on oil prices, which gained 94 cents to $95.58 in early trading.

At 2 p.m. ET the Federal Reserve is set to release minutes from its meeting last month, which investors will read carefully for clues as to whether the central bank will continue to cut interest rates or leave them unchanged at its final meeting of the year Dec. 11.

Among stocks to watch, HP (Charts, Fortune 500) reported a surge in quarterly profit that topped estimates after the close Monday. The company also offered earnings and sales guidance for the new fiscal year that also topped forecasts. Shares of the Dow component gained 1.7 percent in after-hours trading on the report.

Target (Charts, Fortune 500), the nation's No. 2 discount retailer, said that third-quarter earnings fell 4 percent, below forecasts, on weak sales despite overall revenue growth. Late Monday, Target reaffirmed its November sales outlook as it looks for sales to be up 2 to 4 percent at stores open at least a year.

Medical device maker Medtronic (Charts, Fortune 500) reported slightly lower earnings in the most recent period, but it still beat forecasts. That helped lift its shares 2.7 percent in after-hours trading.

Tyson (Charts, Fortune 500) announced it would revise labels that say its fresh chicken is "raised without antibiotics" after federal regulators said they made a mistake in approving labels that use that term.

In global trade, stocks in Asia mounted a sharp turnaround to finish the session higher. The rally helped lift European markets in the early going. To top of page

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.