(By Balachander) U.S. stock index futures pointed to a modestly higher opening on the Wall Street ahead of domestic housing data and Japan's central bank eased monetary policy to spur growth.
Mini Dow Industrial Average futures rose 19 points to 13,518. The Nasdaq futures added 4.50 points to 2,854.50. Standard and Poor's 500 futures gained 2.00 points to 1,454.90.
The Bank of Japan increased the size of its asset-purchase target by 10 trillion yen to 80 trillion yen ($1.01 trillion).
On the domestic data front, housing starts in the United States rose 2.3 percent to 750,000 for August, while permits for future building construction fell 1.0 percent to 803,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Economists expected housing starts at 765,000 and building permits of 796,000. In July, housing starts and building permits were revised to 733,000 and 811,000, respectively.
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The National Association of Realtors will release its report on existing home sales for August at 10 am ET. Economists expect existing home sales of 4.55 million for the month from 4.47 million in the prior month.
On Tuesday, U.S. stocks ended on a mixed note as downbeat earnings guidance from economic bellwether FedEx (NYSE:FDX) and worries about the economic situation in Spain weighed on the sentiment. Uncertainty over how soon Spain would consider requesting for a bailout package contributed to the losses.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: GS, MSFT, AZO, GIS, ASNA, SCHW, RMTR
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In corporate news, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE:GS) said its finance chief David Viniar has decided to retire, effective the end of January 2013. GS named Harvey Schwartz, currently global co-head of the Securities Division, as the CFO. Shares edged lower in premarket.
Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) raised its quarterly dividend by 15 percent to 23 cents. The company also said Raymond Gilmartin, a former Merck executive and its board member, will not seek re-election to Microsoft's board. Shares shed 0.24 percent in premarket.
AutoZone Inc. (NYSE:AZO) declined 1.21 percent in premarket after the retailer of automotive replacement parts posted its fourth-quarter results. Its earnings topped consensus, while sales trailed market expectations.
General Mills Inc. (NYSE:GIS) rose 1.17 percent in premarket after the company reported higher quarterly profit and sales, and the maker of branded consumer foods reaffirmed fiscal 2013 forecast. Earnings topped market, expectations, while sales missed consensus.
Charles Schwab Corp. (NYSE:SCHW) dropped 1.00 percent. Shares of the discount broker were downgraded by Goldman Sachs (GS) to "Neutral".
Ascena Retail Group Inc. (NASDAQ:ASNA) fell 1.86 percent after the clothing chain guided 2013 earnings below market expectations and posted lower quarterly net income.
Ramtron International (NASDAQ:RMTR) jumped 7.67 percent in premarket after the semiconductor maker agreed to be acquired by Cypress Semiconductor Corp. (NASDAQ:CY) for $3.10 per share in cash.
ACE Ltd. (NYSE:ACE) said it has bought 80 percent of Indonesian general insurer Asuransi Jaya Proteski.
Adobe Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:ADBE), Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. (NASDAQ:BBBY) and Herman Miller Inc. (NASDAQ:MLHR) are due to report their quarterly numbers after the markets close.
European markets traded higher, with Germany's DAX up 0.14 percent to trade at 7,358.13. France's CAC40 added 0.26 percent to trade at 3,521.89. U.K.'s FTSE 100 rose 0.16 percent to trade at 5,877.66.
Asian markets closed higher, with China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index up 0.40 percent to finish at 2,067.83. Japan's Nikkei 225 jumped 1.19 percent to end at 9,232.21. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index gained 1.16 percent to close at 20,841.91. India's BSE Sensex was closed for a holiday.
Commodity & Currency Scan:
Ahead of the opening bell, crude oil futures retreated 0.76 percent to $94.57 per barrel. Gold futures inched up 0.05 percent to $1,772.0 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro shed 0.36 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.3000 and the British pound dropped 0.34 percent to 1.6189. The dollar slipped 0.05 percent against the Japanese yen to 78.7700.