After a day that saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) end in the red despite largely positive news coming out of Greece, U.S. market indexes are all green coming into the middle of Tuesday's trading day, driven by positive U.S. housing data. Just before noon EDT, the Dow sits 113 points higher, up about 0.9%. Likewise, the Nasdaq and S&P 500 have posted gains of 1.1% and 0.9%, respectively. Equally encouraging, the market's "fear gauge," the VIX (INDEX: ^VIX ) , had also retreated to the tune of 3.2%.
What's driving today's move
Growing signs of life in the moribund American housing market increased investors' optimism. This helped drive cyclical stocks higher today. According to the Commerce Department, the number of housing starts requested by U.S. homebuilders has reached its highest point since 2008. The number of single-family homes under construction also increased in May.
Around the markets
Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) led the Dow's advance, gaining almost 5% before noon on news that Swiss banking firm Julius Baer intends to buy B of A's international wealth management business. While specific dollar figures have yet to officially surface, analysts examining the potential transaction think Bank of America should raise about $2.5 billion in the sale. In other banking news, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) CEO Jamie Dimon is testifying on Capitol Hill today for the second time in two weeks. Shares of the Dow component also outpaced the market's advance and currently sit 1.6% higher.
Nipping at B of A's heels, shares of software powerhouse Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) gained almost 4% after it announced plans to launch its own branded Windows tablet, taking on Apple's and Google's growing dominance in the burgeoning tablet market. This marks a distinct shift in strategy for Microsoft, which traditionally licenses its software to hardware manufacturers. In its upcoming Windows 8, Microsoft will offer an operating system with comprehensive integration across personal computers, tablets, and smartphones.
And while today's news certainly seems encouraging, Spain again saw a 2-percentage-point increase of its borrowing costs in a sale of short-term debt, a stark reminder that the European debt crisis should continue to loom large over markets in the weeks and months to come. As we've seen recently, this kind of uncertainty can create some highly compelling opportunities, especially in stable, dividend-paying blue chips, which have reached mouthwatering valuations. To learn about the three Dow stocks investors have to know about, just click here to grab your copy of the Fool's brand-new research report.