At the halfway point of the trading day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) was up 53 points (0.39%) to 13,618. The S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) is up five points (0.34%) to 1,464.
There were two economic releases today which were positive for stocks. The first release was Housing Starts for August, which came in at 750,000. That is above July's 733,000 but below analyst expectations of 775,000.
The second economic release was the National Association of Realtors existing-home sales, which came in at an annualized 4.82 million in August -- a 7.8% gain, and the highest level since May 2010. That is far above analyst expectations of 4.6 million and July's figure of 4.47 million.
The markets as a whole are up, and a few stocks are pushing the Dow higher.
Today's Dow leaders
Today's Dow leader is Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) , up 1.73% ($0.17) to $9.40. The Fed's recent stimulus announcement has pushed up the banking sector as a whole. Bank of America is up 4.8% since the announcement, and fellow Dow bank stock JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) is up 4.2% since then. The stimulus will be a boon for the big banks, as their performance is highly dependent on the health of the economy. Bank of America was the third-best-performing Dow stock in August. The stock is already up nearly 17.5% in September and is on the way to being one of this month's top three, as well. Fool analyst John Maxfield recently took an in-depth look at Bank of America and identified the three biggest risks to the bank. Click here for his take.
In second place for the day is Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) , up 1.51% ($0.89) to $59.75. Home Depot reported strong earnings two weeks ago and hit a 52-week high today of $60. Last week the company announced it was closing its remaining seven stores in China after they did not meet management's expectations for return on investment. Analyst John Grgurich recently took a hard look at Home Depot and its business practices; click here for his take.
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