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While you were sleeping: Home Depot lifts market

Wall Street gained after a report showed US housing starts rose to the highest level in eight months, while Home Depot posted better-than-expected earnings, bolstering hope that the American real estate market is finally showing signs of an enduring recovery.

Shares of Apple rose, last up 1.3 percent at US$100.48, amid growing anticipation for a slew of new products.

US housing starts climbed 15.7 percent in July to a better-than-expected 1.09 million annualised rate, the highest level since November, according to Commerce Department data. Last month's gain followed two months of declines. On Monday, a report showed that a gauge of home builder confidence increased for the third month in a row.

Separately, the consumer price index rose 0.1 percent in July, after rising 0.3 percent in June, according to the Labor Department.

"With tame inflation data and the housing market benefiting from the drop in mortgage rates, it's painting a pretty sanguine picture," Russ Koesterich, chief investment strategist at New York-based BlackRock, told Bloomberg News. "Housing starts were encouraging, and the housing market is one area the [US Federal Reserve] has been concerned about being somewhat fragile."

In late afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.52 percent, as did the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, while the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.40 percent.

"It's all reflective of a view that the economy, despite some of the weaker or mixed data, is continuing to gain momentum," Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey, told Reuters.

A jump in shares of Home Depot, last up 6.2 percent, led the gains in the Dow. The home improvement retailer upgraded its full-year earnings forecast.

"In the second quarter, our spring seasonal business rebounded, and we saw strong performance in the core of the store and across all of our geographies," Frank Blake, Home Depot CEO, said in a statement.

Minutes from the latest Fed meeting are due on Wednesday, while Fed Chair Janet Yellen's speech on Friday at the annual Jackson Hole, Wyoming global central bank gathering will also be closely watched for any clues on the timing of a potential interest rate increase.

"The rest of the week will focus attention on Jackson Hole and what she's going to allow," Kevin Giddis, head of fixed-income capital markets in Memphis at Raymond James & Associates, told Bloomberg News. "Investors are thinking the Fed is going to weigh heavy on what's going on in the jobs market."

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 ended the session with a 0.6 percent increase from the previous close. The UK's FTSE 100 and France's CAC 40 both also gained 0.6 percent, while Germany's DAX climbed 1 percent.

(BusinessDesk)