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The Nasdaq crossed the 4,000 mark yesterday for the first time in over a decade as strong housing data and positive retail earnings reports improved sentiment. The Dow and S&P 500 also finished in the green, extending their respective record highs. The consumer discretionary sector was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups, while utilities stocks lost the most.

For a look at the issues currently facing the markets, make sure to read today’s Ahead of Wall Street article

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) climbed nearly 0.01% to close the day at 16,072.80. The S&P 500 rose 0.01% to finish yesterday’s trading session at 1,802.75. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index increased 0.6% to end at 4017.75. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) rose 0.2% to settle at 12.81. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange were 3.4 billion shares. Advancing stocks outnumbered the decliners. For 52% shares that advanced, only 44% declined.

Upbeat housing data and strength in earnings from the retail sector lifted the benchmarks yesterday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq’s bull run was largely due to gains by tech heavyweights. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) all finished higher, with gains of 1.8%, 1.2% and 1.3%, respectively. These gains helped the Nasdaq break the 4K barrier for the first time since the dot-com bubble.
 
Housing data was a big positive for the markets yesterday. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, building permits for the month of October came in at 1,034,000, and is 6.2% higher than previous month’s figure of 974,000. It was also above the consensus estimate of 935,000. The report helped home builder shares to gain heavily yesterday. Building permits rose at their fastest rate in five years in October. Collection of data for Housing Starts was affected by the federal government shutdown and these numbers will now be released in December.
 
The SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (XHB) increased 2.1%. Stocks such as PulteGroup, Inc. (NYSE:PHM), KB Home (NYSE:KBH), Lennar Corporation (NYSE:LEN), M.D.C. Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:MDC), and The Ryland Group, Inc. (NYSE:RYL) gained 4.4%, 4.7%, 5.1%, 5.7%, and 5.6%, respectively.
 
Coming to the earnings numbers, popular jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co. (NYSE:TIF) reported impressive third quarter figures and upped its profit outlook for 2013. Shares of Tiffany increased nearly 8.7% following the news and it was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 components. Among other retailers, Chico's FAS Inc. (CHS - Snapshot Report) and DSW Inc. (NYSE:DSW) also came out with encouraging numbers.
 
Meanwhile, the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index for the month of November came in at 70.4 compared to previous month’s reading of 72.4.This was also below the consensus estimate of 72.8.The Present situation Index decreased to 72.0 from previous month’s reading of 72.6. The expectations index also declined, falling to 69.3 from previous month’s reading of 72.2.
 
An increase was also witnessed in the S&P/Case - Shiller Home Price Indices. The leading measure of U.S. home prices showed an increase of 3.2% in the U.S. National Home Price Index in the third quarter of 2013 and an 11.2% increase over the last four years. In the month of September 2013, the 10 and 20 city composites climbed 0.7% month-over-month, and 13.3% year-over-year growth rates.
 
The consumer discretionary sector was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups and the Consumer Discretionary SPDR (XLY) gained 0.6%. Stocks such The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS), The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD), Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX), and Priceline.com Inc. (NASDAQ:PCLN) gained 2.1%, 0.8%, 1.0%, and 1.6%, respectively. Moreover, Macy's, Inc. (NYSE:M), Brown Shoe Co. Inc. (NYSE:BWS) and Walt Disney Company reached 52-week highs of $53.14, $27.20 and $71.69, respectively, yesterday.
                                                                                                                                      
Utilities stocks dropped the most among the S&P 500 industry groups and the Utilities SPDR (XLU) lost 1.0%. Stocks such as Duke Energy Corp (NYSE:DUK), Dominion Resources, Inc. (NYSE:D), NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE), The Southern Company (NYSE:SO), and American Electric Power Company Inc. (NYSE:AEP) declined by 0.7%, 0.7%, 1.1%, 0.7%, and 0.2%, respectively.

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