NEW YORK (AP) — After a wobbly start, U.S. stocks are higher Friday, led by gains in health care and technology companies. Major indexes are on track for their sixth gain in a row. Homebuilders are also rising after the government said construction of new homes jumped in January, but food companies including Kraft Heinz and Campbell Soup are slumping after reporting disappointing results. After two weeks of big losses, stocks are on track for their best week since 2011.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 12 points, or 0.5 percent, at 2,743 as of 11:25 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 131 points, or 0.5 percent, to 25,331. The Nasdaq composite picked up 25 points, or 0.4 percent, to 7,281. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks climbed 8 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,545.
The S&P 500 plunged 10 percent in nine days at the start of February. It’s up 6.3 percent in the last six days, including almost 5 percent this week. If that gain holds, this would be the best week for the index since August 2011. At that time the market was also coming back from a big drop, that one related to the downgrade of the U.S. government’s credit rating and fears about outsize government debt in Europe.
HOME SWEET HOME: Construction of new homes jumped 9.7 percent in January, according to the Commerce Department. That was the highest level since October 2016, and permits, a sign of future construction, also climbed. For years homebuilders haven’t put up enough homes to meet demand, although that often helped their stocks because the shortage sent prices higher and higher. NVR gained $61.44, or 2 percent, to $3,138.14 and Hovnanian Enterprises added 7 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $2.19 while D.R. Horton rose 38 cents to $45.49.
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The news also helped home improvement retailers. Home Depot gained $1.60 to $186.87 and Lowe’s added 64 cents to $97.15.
NOT SATISFIED: Kraft Heinz had a weak quarter as sales of cheeses and cold cuts declined. The maker of Oscar Mayer meats, Jell-O pudding and Velveeta cheese fell $3.23, or 4.4 percent, to $69.48. Campbell Soup said sales of fresh foods declined, while soup sales continued to fall because of a dispute with a customer about how to promote them. Analyst said that customer is Walmart. Campbell shares lost $1.41, or 3 percent, to $46.29.
Coca-Cola fared better as its sales surpassed analyst projections. The stock gained 37 cents to $46.29.
DEERE ROLLING IN DOE: Farm equipment maker Deere climbed $7.56, or 4.5 percent, to $174.37 after it raised its profit and sales forecasts for the year.
BAD FIT: VF Corp., the owner of brands such as Vans, North Face and Timberland, reported a solid quarter, but analysts said they expected better after several months of unusually cold winter weather. VF also said it will sell its Nautica apparel brand. With the stock up more than 50 percent over the last year, that wasn’t enough to keep the gains coming. The shares lost $7.41, or 8.8 percent, to $76.53.
BONDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.86 percent from 2.91 percent.
ENERGY: U.S. crude oil picked up 25 cents to $61.59 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 44 cents to $64.77 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar edged up to 105.99 yen from 106.27 yen. The euro fell to $1.2457 from $1.2506.
OVERSEAS: The CAC 40 of France climbed 1.2 percent after a strong gain a day ago. Germany’s DAX added 0.8 percent while the FTSE 100 in Britain gained 0.9 percent. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index climbed 1.2 percent. Markets in China and South Korea were closed for lunar new year celebrations.
AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/marley%20jayt .
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