North American stocks were higher in midday trading on Wednesday, boosted in part by an upbeat report on U.S. housing starts, adding to evidence that the long-suffering housing sector is improving.
At noon, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 83 points or 0.7 per cent, to 12,888.
The broader S&P 500 was up 8 points or 0.6 per cent, to 1,372.
In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 36 points or 0.3 per cent, to 11,607.
The gains followed a report from the Commerce Department showing that U.S. housing starts rose to 760,000 in June, at an annualized pace, up 6.9 per cent from May and the marking fastest growth since October 2008.
While starts remain well below figures seen during the housing boom prior to the financial crisis, they are now up noticeably from their lows and could suggest that the housing sector will contribute to U.S. economic growth.
European markets also moved higher. Germany’s DAX index rose 1.5 per cent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 rose 0.9 per cent – the latter helped by the release of minutes from the last Bank of England meeting, which suggested the central bank might be close to using more stimulus measures to help the U.K. economy.
However, the debt crisis remained threatening. The yield on the Spanish 10-year government bond approached 6.9 per cent, up 16 basis points. (There are 100 basis points in a percentage point.)
Within the S&P 500, technology stocks showed the biggest gains, rising 1.8 per cent after investors embraced Tuesday’s quarterly earnings from Intel Corp.
While the chip-maker lowered its full-year earnings estimates, it beat expectations with its second quarter earnings.
Industrials rose 1.6 per cent and energy stocks rose 0.6 per cent. Financials slipped 0.4 per cent after Bank of America Corp. reported that its quarterly earnings fell to 19 cents (U.S.) a share, from 90 cents a share last year.
In Canada, energy stocks rose 0.3 per cent, following the price of crude oil. Oil rose to $89.85 a barrel, up 63 cents, marking its sixth consecutive increase. Materials fell 0.1 per cent and financials rose 0.1 per cent.