Futures Hold Gains as Traders Digest Mixed Housing Data

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Monetary easing from the Bank of Japan pushed stock-index futures slightly higher Wednesday. However, mixed housing data held back the gains.

Today's Markets

As of 8:36 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 20 points to 13519, S&P 500 futures gained 1.8 points to 1455 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 4.8 points to 2855.

The broad markets have fallen for the past two sessions as traders have taken a breather following a two-week rally for Wall Street.

Sentiment got a boost on the day from an unexpected policy move from the Bank of Japan. The BoJ boosted the size of its asset-purchase program by 10 trillion yen (roughly $126 billion). The move came after the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank took easing action.

The export-driven economy is struggling with waning global demand. A territorial dispute with China, its biggest trading partner, over islands in the East China Sea have also raised fresh economic concerns.

"The move ... has overtaken concerns over the escalating Sino-Japanese tensions over the Senkaku for now at least," analysts at Nomura, the Japan-based investment bank wrote in a note to clients. Indeed, benchmark exchanges in Japan and China rallied more than 1%.

Wall Street is set to get two reports on the housing market.

The Commerce Department reported housing starts rose 2.3% in August from July to a 750,000-unit rate, missing estimates of a 765,000-unit rate. Permits, a more forward-looking indicator, fell 1% to an 803,000-unit rate, but topped estimates of a 796,000-unit rate.

These data come amid a slew of reports pointing to a recovery taking place in one of the markets that was hardest hit during the recession. Homebuilders like KB Home (NYSE:KBH) and Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL) could be particularly affected by the reports.

Energy futures were to the downside ahead of the weekly inventory report from the Energy Department. The benchmark oil contract traded in New York fell 61 cents, or 0.64%, to $94.68 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.17% to $2.894 a gallon.

In metals, gold tacked on $5.20, or 0.3%, to $1,777 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 fell 0.02% to 2553, the English FTSE 100 rose 0.07% to 5872 and the German DAX slipped 0.04% to 7345.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rallied 1.2% to 9232 and the Chinese Hang Seng jumped 1.2% to 20842.