Blue-chip stocks are broadly higher today thanks to positive news out of the housing sector and a handful of better-than-expected earnings announcements. With roughly an hour left in the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) is up 123 points, or 0.84%.
The Department of Commerce announced this morning (link opens PDF) that housing starts had risen to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.04 million in March. This was 7% better than the revised February estimate and a staggering 46.7% higher than in the same month last year. It also beat the consensus forecast: Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected 933,000 housing starts in March.
"Housing continues to be a bright spot," an analyst told Bloomberg News. He went on to note that there's "still a lot of room to go with new construction activity."
On the individual-company front, shares of Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO ) are leading the Dow higher, up by 5.4% at the time of writing. The soft-drink maker reported first-quarter earnings today, and as my colleague Dan Dzombak noted, it beat expectations on both the top and bottom lines with $0.46 in adjusted earnings per share on $11.04 billion in revenue.
Also trading higher today are shares of the Dow's banking components, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) and JPMorgan Chase. The companies are up 1.6% and 0.6%, respectively, riding the coattails of Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) and US Bancorp (NYSE: USB ) , both of which reported their results from the first three months of the year.
Analysts have been concerned about the health of the banking sector after Wells Fargo reported at the end of last week that its mortgage-origination volume dropped in the first quarter. Given the industry's run of record profits, however, any worries should be at least partially allayed.
For the three months ended March 31, Goldman grew its top line by 1%, while net income at the investment bank shot up by 7%. And while US Bancorp recorded a slight drop in revenue, the nation's largest regional bank earned 6.3% more this year than last.
Next up for the banking sector is Bank of America, which reports earnings before the market opens tomorrow. The consensus estimate is calling for $0.22 per share, according to the Journal.
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