Futures Hold Gains After Housing Starts Data

U.S. stock index futuresheld gains Wednesday after the Bank of Japan eased monetary policy to boost an economy struggling with sluggish global demand.

On the economic front, housing starts rose 2.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 750,000 units in August, according to the Commerce Department. The report was slightly lighter than the 765,000-unit rate economists had expected.

Existing home sales data for August is due to be released at 10 a.m. New York time.

Weekly mortgage applications slipped last week, though refinancing demand rose as rates declined to a record low, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The BoJ said it would step up bond buyingin an announcement that came a month earlier than expected. The news boosted stocks in Asia and Europe and comes hot on the heels of monetary stimulus plans announced by theFederal Reserveand the European Central Bank.

Goldman Sachs announced that senior trading executive Harvey Schwartz would take over as CFO. He replaces David Viniar, who will join the company's board as non-independent director.

Apple and four major publishers have offered to let retailers such as Amazon sell e-books at a discountfor two years to end an EU antitrust investigation, according to the the European Commission. Apple shares closed above $700 for the first time on Tuesday, a day after the tech giant said its iPhone 5 sales set a record over the weekend.

Big-box retailer Wal-Mart and health care insurer Humana will join efforts to trim the cost of healthy foodsfor more than 1 million customers.

Microsoft increased its quarterly dividendby 15 percent to 23 cents a share.

Among earnings, AutoZone tumbled after the auto-parts retailer said quarterly sales growth slowed.

General Mills edged higher after the food producer reported better-than-expected earnings and stood by its full-year guidance.

Adobe and Bed Bath & Beyond are slated to post earnings after the closing bell.

By CNBC’s JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)

Coming Up This Week:

WEDNESDAY: Existing home sales, oil inventories; Earnings from Adobe Systems, Bed Bath & Beyond
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, Philadelphia Fed survey, leading indicators, Fed's Kocherlakota speaks; Earnings from CarMax, ConAgra, Rite Aid, Oracle
FRIDAY: Quadruple witching, Fed's Lockhart speaks, iPhone 5 shipping date

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