LONDON -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) and the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) are expected to open slightly higher this morning, according to futures markets at 7 a.m. EDT. Investors are expected to react favorably to overnight news that Japan's central bank has launched a $126 billion extension to its existing asset-purchase program. The money will be used to buy a mixture of short- and long-dated government bonds and will run until the end of 2013.
At home, a range of housing-related data is due to be released, which could confirm the improvement shown by yesterday's homebuilders' index. The MBA weekly mortgage applications survey was due at 7 a.m. EDT. August's housing start figures are to be released at 8:30 a.m. EDT; analysts are expecting an increase from 746,000 to 775,000, but building permits, also due at 8:30 a.m. EDT, are expected to have fallen. Finally, August's existing-home sales are due at 10 a.m. EDT, with analysts expecting an increase from 4.47 million to 4.6 million.
Today sees a pickup in company reporting activity, with General Mills, AutoZone, Adobe Systems, and Bed Bath & Beyond all expected to report quarterly figures. It may also be worth watching out for Microsoft, which announced a 15% increase in the company's quarterly dividend after markets closed last night.
Over in Europe, the main markets were almost unchanged after the morning's trading. At 7 a.m. EDT, the DAX was down 0.1%, the CAC was down 0.1%, the FTSE MIB was down 0.2%, and the IBEX was down 0.1%. In London, the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE ) was up 0.1%, as the gainers and fallers almost balanced each other exactly. Leading the gainers and continuing yesterday's ascent was water utility United Utilities, which rose by 2.7% on the strength of renewed bid rumors. At the other end of the scale, financials continued to suffer, with Barclays falling 2.2% and yesterday's big loser, Aviva, sliding a further 1.2%.
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