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Housing data gives US markets a boost

US stocks rose for the fourth straight day yesterday as an upbeat report on sales of previously owned US homes bolstered hopes for an economic recovery.<br /><br />But a sell-off in financials on worries about the dilutive impact of recent stock offerings limited a broad advance.<br /><br />An index of pending sales of previously owned US homes shot up 6.7 per cent in April, the biggest monthly gain in seven-and-a-half years, according to the National Association of Realtors.<br /><br />The data suggested that the recession is easing, and investors snapped up shares of home builders, with <strong>Toll Brothers</strong> rising nearly 4 per cent to $19.53, while <strong>DR Horton</strong> shot up 4.1 per cent to $9.63.<br /><br />The Dow Jones home construction index was up 3.2 per cent.<br /><br />Shares of big manufacturers also rose, with plane maker <strong>Boeing</strong> gaining 3.1 per cent and ranking among the Dow&rsquo;s major advancers. <strong>Exxon Mobil, 3M, Coca-Cola</strong> and <strong>Alcoa</strong> also bolstered the blue-chip average.<br /><br />&ldquo;Some news is starting to come out that says things are stabilising and slowly starting to look better,&rdquo; said Dan Faretta, senior market strategist at Lind-Waldock, a retail brokerage firm. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve still got companies going under, filing for bankruptcy, and unemployment is continuing to rise...but we are starting to finally hit the bottom.&rdquo;<br /><br />The Dow Jones industrial average added 19.43 points, or 0.22 per cent, to 8,740.87. The Standard &amp; Poor&rsquo;s 500 Index gained 1.87 points, or 0.20 per cent, to 944.74.<br /><br />The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 8.12 points, or 0.44 per cent, to 1,836.80.<br /><br />For the S&amp;P 500, the four-day advance represents the index&rsquo;s longest winning streak since early April. However, trading was volatile, with indices swinging between gains and losses during the session.<br /><br />The Dow industrials briefly turned positive for the year, rising as high as 8,787.13, before trimming gains.<br /><br />The broader market came up against critical resistance a day after the S&amp;P 500 hit a key technical milestone, finishing above its 200-day moving average for the first time since December 2007.&nbsp;