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Morning Market Roundup: U.S. Housing Starts Up, Japan Starts Its Own Easing, SA Miners Reach an Agreement

Here’s what’s important in the business world this morning:

U.S. Housing Starts: S. builders started work on more homes in August, driven by the fastest pace of single-family home construction in more than two years. The increase points to steady progress in the housing recovery.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that construction of homes and apartments rose 2.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 750,000 last month. That's up from 733,000 in July, which was revised lower from last month's initial estimate.

Single-family housing starts rose 5.5 percent to an annual rate of 535,000 homes, the best pace since April 2010. Apartment construction, which can be volatile from month to month, fell 4.9 percent.

Applications for building permits, a good sign of future construction, fell to an annual rate of 803,000. Still, that's down from a four-year high of 811,000 in July, which was revised higher.

Japan: Japan's central bank expanded its monetary easing by 10 trillion yen ($126 billion) Wednesday, moving to nurture the country's feeble economic recovery and cushion its exporters from the yen's rise.

The Bank of Japan wrapped up a two-day policy meeting by increasing its asset-purchasing fund to 55 trillion yen ($695 billion) from 45 trillion yen. That followed the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision last week to stimulate growth through so-called quantitative easing.

"There remains a high degree of uncertainty about the global economy," the bank said in a statement. "The pick-up in economic activity has come to a pause," it said, forecasting that activity will remain flat.

South Africa: Lonmin Platinum's miners celebrated a wage deal Wednesday that ended a deadly strike.

Many of Lonmin's 28,000 workers said they were happy to return to work Thursday and that the strike that saw 45 people killed has finally come to an end.

Lonmin agreed to a gross pay of 11,078 rand ($1,385) to rock drill operators who had been demanding a monthly take-home wage of 12,500 rand ($1,560). They also agreed to give all miners a once-off payment of 2,000 rand ($250) as a bonus for returning to work. A statement from the company said that miners will receive between 11 and 22 percent wage increases.

U.S. Futures: Futures edged higher Wednesday with new data providing hope to beleaguered homeowners and the housing industry as well.

Dow Jones industrial futures rose 19 points to 13,518. The broader S&P futures added 1.9 points to 1,454.80. Nasdaq futures tacked on 4.5 points to 2,854.50.

Overseas, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index hit a four-month high after the nation's central bank followed the U.S. Federal Reserve by broadening its massive asset purchasing plan, boosting funding to 55 trillion yen ($700 billion) from 45 trillion yen.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was flat at 5,871 while Germany's DAX was down 0.1 percent at 7,342. The CAC-40 in France was also 0.1 percent lower at 3,508.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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