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Traders work at their posts on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Richard Drew/AP)
Traders work at their posts on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Richard Drew/AP)

The close: Dow, TSX gain as U.S. housing starts hit four-year high Add to ...

Stocks turned in solid gains 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.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 12,908.70, up 103.16 points or 0.8 per cent. The broader S&P 500 closed at 1,372.78, up 9.11 points or 0.7 per cent.

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In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 11,579.15, up 7.96 points or 0.1 per cent..

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 marking the 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.

Within the S&P 500, technology stocks showed the biggest gains, 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. The shares rose 3.3 per cent and lifted other stocks in the sector: Microsoft Corp. rose 2.7 per cent and Cisco Systems Inc. rose 2.9 per cent.

Bank of America Corp. fell 4.9 per cent after it reported that its quarterly earnings fell to 19 cents (U.S.) a share. A year ago, the bank reported a loss of 90 cents a share.

In Canada, Cogeco Cable Inc. plunged 14.8 per cent after it announced a $1.4-billion (U.S.) deal to acquire Atlantic Broadband, pushing it into a new operating territory in the United States.

Crude oil rose to $89.87 a barrel, up 65 cents, marking its sixth consecutive increase. Gold fell to $1,570.80 an ounce, down $18.70. Among commodity producers, Suncor Energy Inc. rose 0.7 per cent and Barrick Gold Corp. fell 1.2 per cent.

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