Housing stocks helped the market build modest gains Thursday. The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) added 10 points, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) rose 4, ending the day just 5 points from the record high set last week. But the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) was the standout gainer, up 22 points, about 0.5 percent.
%VIRTUAL-WSSCourseInline-876%Sales of existing homes rose last month, easing some concerns that housing market weakness would keep the economy in the slow lane. Beazer (BZH) jumped 5 percent and Hovnanian (HOV) gained 3 percent. D.R. Horton (DHI), Lennar (LEN), Pulte (PHM) and Toll Brothers (TOL) all rose about 2 percent. The online real estate company Zillow (Z) gained nearly 5 percent.
The IPO of Chinese Internet retailer JD.com (JD) sparked lots of attention. It rose 8½ percent from its $19 a share initial pricing. The offering valued the company, known as the Amazon.com of China, at $26 billion.
But other Chinese stocks that trade here had a rough day. Weibo (WB) fell 11 percent and Sina (SINA) fell 10 percent. Both issued weak earnings forecasts. China Precision Steel (CPSL) tumbled 19 percent.
Retail stocks have had a rough week as many companies posted disappointing sales numbers, but there were some gains in the sector today.
Dollar Tree (DLTR) gained 6½ percent on solid earnings and an increase in customer traffic.
Williams-Sonoma (WSM) rose 8 percent after topping expectations.
Best Buy (BBY) also beat, and the stock rose 3½ percent.
Bon-Ton Stores (BONT) rose 5 percent, despite missing the Street's target.
Even Sears (SHLD) rose 4 percent despite another sales decline. But over the past 6 months, Sears stock has lost 21 percent.
Biotech was another strong sector. Amgen (AMGN) and Biogen (BIIB) both added 1 percent. Isis Pharmaceuticals (ISIS) jumped 7½ percent after reporting success in a mid-stage trial of its experimental blood thinner.
Elsewhere, ITT Educational Services (ESI) tumbled 20 percent after withdrawing its full year earnings forecast. It also said student enrollment at its for-profit schools declined in the first quarter.
And the digital coupon firm RetailMeNot (SALE) slid 19 percent. It reportedly lost a third of its web traffic following recent changes to Google's search algorithm.
What to Watch Friday:
The Commerce Department releases new home sales for April at 10 a.m. Eastern time.
Foot Locker (FL) releases quarterly financial statements before U.S. markets open.
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.