U.S. stocks advance amid better-than-estimated economic data

U.S. stocks rose, sending the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index higher for a second day, amid better-than-estimated data on housing and durable-goods orders.

A measure of homebuilders in S&P indexes surged 4 percent to the highest level since 2008 as data showed more Americans than forecast signed contracts to purchase previously owned homes in May. Monsanto Co., the world’s largest seed company, gained 2.6 percent as earnings beat estimates. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. added 1.7 percent after the drugmaker doubled the size of its share buyback program. Facebook Inc. declined 2.2 percent after at least 17 firms started to cover the shares.

The S&P 500 added 0.7 percent to 1,329.77 at 10:51 a.m. New York time, extending its monthly gain to 1.5 percent. The benchmark gauge has fallen 5.6 percent so far this quarter. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 81.44 points, or 0.7 percent, to 12,616.11 today. Trading in S&P 500 companies was down 12 percent from the 30-day average at this time of day.

“The economic data was encouraging,” said Walter Todd, who oversees about $940 million as chief investment officer of Greenwood Capital in Greenwood, South Carolina. “It’s important to see that because most recently we’ve had weaker data here and in China while Europe came back to the forefront. Any policy moves out of China would certainly be welcomed. In addition, it’s the end of the quarter and you tend to see some buying around that time.”

Equities rallied amid signs the real estate industry is firming three years after the start of the economic recovery. Orders for durable goods climbed more than forecast in May, easing concern that U.S. manufacturing is faltering.

China Bets

Stocks rose in Europe and Asia for the first time in five days amid speculation China will add to economic stimulus and Italian bonds gained after a debt sale ahead of a June 28-29 European Union summit. German Chancellor Angela Merkel shut the door to joint euro-area bonds as a means of lowering Spain’s borrowing costs, saying they are the “wrong way” to achieve the greater European integration needed to stem the debt crisis.

The benchmark measure for U.S. equities is on pace for the first quarterly decline since September amid concern about a global economic slowdown. Energy, financial and technology shares have had the biggest losses so far in the second quarter, tumbling at least 8.8 percent.

Monsanto added 2.6 percent to $79.90. Sales of corn seed and genetic licenses rose 35 percent as U.S. farmers planted the biggest crop in 75 years. Soybean sales gained 15 percent, driven by demand for the newest seed engineered to tolerate Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant also is expanding in Latin America and Eastern Europe.

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