Housing starts increase sees S&P gain again

THE S&P 500 rose for the third consecutive day yesterday after housing starts hit a four-year high, but the Dow was weighed down by IBM after it posted weak revenue.

Homebuilders’ shares led gains after the Commerce Department said groundbreaking on new homes jumped 15 per cent in September, the quickest pace since July 2008.

The surge in housing starts was viewed as evidence that the housing sector’s fledgling recovery is bolstering the recovery of the broader economy.

The PHLX Housing Index rose 2.9 per cent.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 5.22 points, or 0.04 per cent, to 13,557 at the close. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 5.99 points, or 0.41 per cent, to finish at 1,460.91. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 2.95 points, or 0.1 per cent, to close at 3,104.12.

Over the past three days, the S&P 500 has gained 2.3 per cent – its best three-day advance in more than a month. The benchmark index is now just 0.33 per cent off its closing high for the year.

Among the day’s biggest losers was Apollo Group, which plunged 22.2 per cent to close at an 11-year low of $21.40. Shares of Apollo, the owner of the University of Phoenix, the largest US for-profit college, fell after the company forecast a weak 2013 and announced new student sign-ups fell 14 per cent for the fourth quarter ended 31 August.

Apollo said it would save $300m by fiscal year 2014 by cutting jobs and shutting half of its University of Phoenix learning sites.