Home builders, retailers lead gains in US stocks

Robert McQuade, left, works with fellow traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. The stock market is little changed as investors pick over more earnings reports from retailers and other U.S. companies. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market is higher in midday trading as investors respond to a sharp increase in new home sales and earnings gains at major retailers.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose four points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,849 points as of noon Wednesday. That's just above the record high close it reached on Jan. 15.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 35 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,215. The Nasdaq composite climbed 22 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,310.

Lennar rose 4 percent and PulteGroup rose 3 percent after the government reported that sales of new homes jumped in January to fastest pace in more than five years.

Lowe's climbed 6 percent after the home improvement retailer reported higher earnings as the housing market continued to recover.