Markets closed up today:
▲ Dow: +0.81 percent
▲ Nasdaq: +0.45 percent
▲ S&P: +0.67 percent
▼ Gold: up -0.27 percent to $1,573.11 an ounce
▼ Silver: up -0.19 percent to settle at $27.15
▲ Oil: +0.93 percent
Markets were up because:
A new sign of recovery in the housing market and strong corporate earnings sent stocks higher for a second day.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 103.16 points, or 0.8 percent, to 12,908.70 on Wednesday, a strong showing for what has been a mediocre July so far. The index has risen only four times in the last 12 trading days.
The government reported that builders broke ground last month on the most new homes and apartments in nearly four years. The 6.9 percent jump brought the number of housing starts to the highest since October 2008. The news came a day after a gauge of confidence among U.S. homebuilders jumped to the highest level in five years.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 9.11 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,372.78. Amphenol jumped nearly 15 percent, the most in the index, after the maker of electronic cables and connectors reported second-quarter earnings that were higher than analysts were expecting. Its stock rose $7.58 to $58.94.
For several weeks, big companies have talked down prospects for big jumps in earnings, and Wall Street analysts have slashed their forecasts in response. At the start of the earnings season last week, they said earnings for companies in the S&P 500 would likely fall 2 percent, according to S&P Capital IQ.
Earnings are still expected to fall, marking the first quarterly decline in nearly three years, but several companies have delivered pleasant surprises nonetheless. Honeywell International, a big technology and manufacturing company, reported an 11 percent increase in second-quarter income Wednesday, more than Wall Street was expecting, thanks to higher demand for its products. Honeywell also raised its forecast for full-year profits. Its stock jumped $3.64, or 7 percent, to $58.18.
Of the 65 companies in the S&P 500 to report earnings so far, 43 have beat estimates, or 66 percent, according to S&P Capital IQ. That is slightly higher than the 62 percent long-term average.
Other earnings reports disappointed. Bank of America reported income that beat most analysts' expectations for the second quarter, but its revenue fell short. The stock fell 39 cents, or nearly 5 percent, to $6.59. Profit declined for PNC Financial Services Group and the investment manager BlackRock, sending both stocks down more than 0.5 percent.
So far this year, the Dow is up 5.7 percent, but has mostly fallen this month. Thanks to Wednesday's gain, it's back in the black for July, but barely - up 0.2 percent.
In addition to housing news, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday that its survey of the economy across the country showed modest expansion in June and early July, but that growth and hiring slowed in several regions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.