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.
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.
The 20 Best Financial Lessons I Learned in My 20s
After Market: Home Sales Rise Is Welcome News to Investors
What's going to give you more pleasure –- a new flat-screen TV or an out-of-the-country trip with friends or family? I've learned to choose experiences and memories over designer goods and technology.
This is a standard lesson. It's never too early to start saving for retirement. Start putting away small amounts monthly into a Roth Individual Retirement Account today, and automatically to set yourself up for success tomorrow.
Nobody will look out for you like you look out for you. If you want something, be proactive. Work for it, ask for it and make a plan to get there.
Whether you're giving your time or your earnings, donating in service to others provides opportunity for connection, growth and learning -- and it can be downright humbling.
It's up to you to decide if it's for better or worse. But communication is key and money should be handled by both of you together, not handed off to one partner.
Student loans are a lot more manageable if you start dealing with the accruing interest while you're in college. This will help keep your payments lower, and ensure that you're putting a bigger chunk towards principal upon graduation.
In the event of a car accident, having the right documents and insurance in place will make it easier on you, your family and your loved ones.
Having a savings account to handle surgeries, object removals and stitches can save your credit card the burden.
Check your score annually using a website like annualcreditreport.com and make note of steps you can take to improve it.
Whether it's for bill payments, financial deadlines, interviews or travel. Plan to show up or pay early. This adds an extra layer of time protection against unforeseen circumstances, and it prevents late fees, change fees and just plain looking bad.
Learn to use credit wisely. Don't carry a balance on credit cards unless you understand the true cost of the interest.
Whether it's a new job, an upgraded car, some type of advanced technology or a consulting fee, do your research and know where the market is priced. Look online for rates, discounts (for products) and don't be afraid to ask to be paid more or to pay less. The worst that can happen is you'll be told "no." The best that can happen is that you'll earn or save more.
Don't pretend to understand something if you don't, and don't ever sign a contract without reading it in full. Educate yourself on the ramifications of any financial decision or contract you plan to enter into.
This is just a fact of life, and why I subscribe to the lifelong learning model.
When it comes to money, all work and no play makes it hard to stay motivated on the road to financial freedom. Taking time to celebrate the small wins along the way makes the journey much more enjoyable.
Quantifying goals -- by making them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely -- helps to keep you accountable and invested in your progress.