U.S. stocks opened higher on Wednesday, after the release of mixed U.S. economic reports, as positive Chinese economic growth data released earlier in the day continued to support equity markets.
During early U.S. trade, the Dow 30 gained 0.70%, the S&P 500 advanced 0.69%, while the Nasdaq climbed 0.83%.
In a report, the U.S. Commerce Department said housing starts rose 2.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 946,000 last month, led by single-family homes. Analysts had expected a 6.4% increase to an annual rate of 973,000.
Despite March's gain, housing starts were down 5.9% from a year earlier, the largest annual contraction since April 2011.
Building permits, an indicator of future demand for housing, fell 2.4% in March to an annual rate of 990,000, led by a drop for apartments. Market expectations had been for an increase of 0.6%.
A separate report showed that U.S. industrial production rose 0.7% last month, exceeding expectations for a 0.5% gain. Industrial production in February was revised up to a 1.2% increase from a previously estimated 0.6% rise.
Global equities had strengthened earlier, after data showed that China’s gross domestic product expanded at an annual rate of 7.4% in the first three months of 2014, slowing from 7.7% in the fourth quarter, but slightly ahead of expectations for growth of 7.3%.
Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) shares surged 7.19% and Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) rallied 1.16%, after the two companies beat estimates when they reported quarterly earnings after the end of trade on Tuesday.
Bank of America Corporation (NYSE:BAC), however, posted a first-quarter loss on Wednesday, due to claims tied to mortgage bonds, sending shares down 2.44%.
Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) added to losses, plummeting 2.64% after the stock soared over 11% on Tuesday when the microblogging company announced that it had hired Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) executive Daniel Graf to be its new vice president of consumer products.
Meanwhile, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) shares slipped 0.28% a day after Samsung Electronics tried to convince jurors on Tuesday that iPhone maker exaggerated claims about inventions allegedly copied by its Korean rival.
Other stocks likely to be in focus included Google and International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM), scheduled to report quarterly results later in the day.
Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were sharply higher. The DJ Euro Stoxx 50 jumped 1.09%, France’s CAC 40 rallied 1.02%, Germany's DAX advanced 1.20%, while Britain's FTSE 100 climbed 0.52%.
During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.11%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 surged 3.01%.