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Let's face it: Investors don't want to hear about economic data anymore. At this point in the summer, every person who even loosely follows the news knows that the worldwide economies continue to struggle. But today, housing showed signs of life, and companies proved that they can make profits regardless of the economic state. Pleasantly surprised, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) gained 0.81% and the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) added 0.67%.
The markets ignored some depressing testimony from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, as well as from the Federal Reserve, whose report simply echoed Chairman Ben Bernanke's earlier assertion of a troubled U.S. economy, as three of the 12 Fed districts reported a drop-off in growth compared with the institution's previous report. Geithner, for his part, highlighted an economy "definitely slower" than he liked in an interview earlier today.
But the day had too many positives for pessimism to keep markets down. Another sign of a housing recovery helped start the rally. Builder starts on new homes hit their highest point since October 2008 today, and the number indicates the beginning of a housing recovery even as the industry overall remains stressed.
Most importantly, earnings soared. IBM (NYSE: IBM ) 's 6% earnings increase didn't even factor into the gains since it reported after hours, but technology companies increased as 2012 expectations are turning out not to be as gloomy as previously expected. Growth is slowing in the U.S. and China, though not negative, and good companies continue to take advantage.
A number of companies contributed to a tech rally that sent the Nasdaq up more than 1%, including diversified electronics manufacturer Amphenol (NYSE: APH ) . Shares jumped 14.76% after the company posted 4% sales growth for the second quarter compared with last year and EPS of $0.86. Analysts had expected $0.84 in EPS, but CEO Adam Norwitt surpassed that number and expects even further growth in the future. But the stock's nearly 15% gains is probably an overreaction to a modest earnings improvement for the company.
Honeywell (NYSE: HON ) also reported earnings today to general applause. The company smashed its year-ago EPS with a reported $1.14, surpassing analyst expectations of $1.11 as well. It earned solid profits from the Americas as well as emerging markets, saw sales rise 4%, and raised its 2012 EPS outlook slightly. Shares rallied 6.67% on the news.
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