by Alyssa Oursler | October 17, 2012 5:18 pm
 Another sign of a housing recovery came Wednesday with news that housing starts jumping 15% in September — the fastest rate in four years — which sent shares of homebuilders and construction stocks skyward as a result.
KB Home (NYSE:KBH) and Hovnanian Enterprises (NYSE:HOV) led the way with 9% gains each, D.R. Horton (NYSE:DHI) climbed more than 5%, and Lennar (NYSE:LEN) rose 2%. Meanwhile, U.S. Concrete (NASDAQ:USCR) also got a nice 8% pop.
The S&P 500 got a boost, improving 0.41% to 1,460.91 — close to its highest level of the year. Struggles in the tech sector offset much of the good news, though, and the Nasdaq and Dow Jones both barely managed to break even. The Nasdaq ended up gaining 0.1% to close at 3,104.12, while the Dow’s 0.04% gains sent it to 13,577.
The Dow wallowed in the red most of the day thanks to yesterday’s after-the-bell tech news. A poor outlook from Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and lower-than-expected sales from IBM (NYSE:IBM) dragged down the entire sector Wednesday.
Shares continued to fall for both companies, as IBM fell nearly 5% and INTC lost around 3% Wednesday. Meanwhile, Citrix Systems (NASDAQ:CTXS, -5.2%), Red Hat (NYSE:RHT, -4.5%) and VMware (NYSE:VMW, -3.8%) were among a number of stocks suffering collateral damage.
Internet security providers got crushed as Fortinet (NASDAQ:FTNT) and Check Point Software (NASDAQ:CHKP) both reported weaker-than-expected Q3 results and lowered their Q4 outlooks. CHKP lost more than 13% on the news — its biggest single-day loss in nine years — while FTNT plummeted 19%. Competitor Sourcefire (NASDAQ:FIRE) felt the pain as well, with shares sinking nearly 12%.
More bad news came on the for-profit college front when Apollo Group (NASDAQ:APOL) reported falling enrollments, along with plans to cut jobs and close learning sites. The company sank 22% to an 11-year low and other for-profit colleges, including Strayer Education (NASDAQ:STRA), Corinthian Colleges (NASDAQ:COCO), ITT Educational Services (NYSE:ESI) and DeVry (NYSE:DV) took significant hits as well.
In other earnings news: Stanley Black & Decker (NYSE:SWK) shares were sent down 2.8% as the company’s profits shrunk and it lowered its full-year outlook. Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) beat forecasts on higher profit, giving shares a 4% pop, while Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) posted a mixed report. Halliburton (NYSE:HAL) enjoyed a revenue jump in Q3 and Pepsi (NYSE:PEP) topped forecasts on lower earnings — though neither saw huge moves.
Also, Dean Foods (NYSE:DF) soared 13% after announcing spinoff details of its WhiteWave Foods Company unit, and Cymer (NASDAQ:CYMI) surged 50% on the news that the company is being snatched up by chip-maker ASML (NASDAQ:ASML), though ASML lost just more than 6%.
After the bell, American Express (NYSE:AXP) reported earnings in line with analyst expectations but revenues just short of it. eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) also reported that it earned 45 cents per share, up from 37 cents a year ago and better than analysts were expecting, while revenue grew by 15% year-over-year. Neither company budged much in after-hours trading.
Alyssa Oursler is an Editorial Assistant at InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, she did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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