Wall St extends rally, lifted by Apple and Home Depot

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - US stocks ended higher for the second straight session on Tuesday, as robust housing data and strong earnings from Dow component Home Depot overshadowed lingering concerns about the conflict in Ukraine.

With the day's gains, the S&P 500 ended within 10 points of its all-time intraday high of 1,991.39 reached on July 24.

The Nasdaq Composite extended Monday's gains and ended on Tuesday at yet another 14-year high.

Apple was among the most heavily traded names of the day after the stock hit US$100 for the first time since its seven-for-one split in June.

The stock climbed 1.4 per cent to a new split-adjusted closing high of US$100.53. Apple contributed the most to the gains of both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite in Tuesday's session.

Consumer discretionary shares led advances in the S&P 500 as a string of positive earnings reports lifted the stocks of major retailers. Home Depot rose 5.6 per cent, its largest daily percentage gain since May 2009, to close at a record US$88.23

The stock also set an intraday lifetime high of US$88.98. The rally occurred after the world's largest home improvement retailer beat Wall Street's earnings expectations.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 80.85 points, or 0.48 per cent, to close at 16,919.59.

The S&P 500 gained 9.86 points, or 0.50 per cent, to end at 1,981.60.

The Nasdaq Composite added 19.20 points, or 0.43 per cent, to finish at 4,527.51, its highest close since March 31, 2000.

Encouraging data on the economic front gave the market another boost, driving the PHLX housing sector index up 1.7 per cent. Housing starts posted their strongest rebound in eight months in July, topping expectations and adding another data point to suggest optimism is returning among homebuilders.

That helped investors gain confidence in the face of continuing tensions along the Ukraine-Russia border, which have pressured markets for weeks.

"A lot of the geopolitical concerns with the Middle East, Russia and Ukraine have dissipated, and the combination of that with good economic data and strong corporate results is making investors move stocks higher," said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors in New York.

"We're finally starting to see that strength in the housing market that we were expecting to get in the second quarter."

Quarterly results sent shares of discount retailer TJX Cos Inc up 8.7 per cent to US$58.56 and pushed Dick's Sporting Goods shares up 1.6 per cent to US$44.21.

In contrast to retailers' overall strength, shares of Elizabeth Arden Inc sank 23.3 per cent to US$15.05 after the company reported the biggest quarterly loss in its history.

About 4.5 billion shares traded on all US platforms, according to BATS exchange data, compared with the five-day average of 5.2 billion.