US equity benchmarks were edging higher on Friday morning, buoyed by strong earnings and gains in the telecommunications, real estate and health care sectors.
In economic news, housing starts rose by more than expected in January, despite inclement weather in many parts of the US and fears of rising interest rates. Privately-owned housing starts rose by 9.7% to a seasonally-adjusted rate of 1.3 million last month, according to the data released Friday from the US Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development. This was above Econoday's consensus at 1.23 million.
In equities, Huntington Ingalls Industrials ( HII ) was leading the gainers on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, up by 3.9% after Credit Suisse upgraded the stock to outperform from neutral. TripAdvisor ( TRIP ) was 3.8% higher and Patterson Companies ( PDCO ) was up by 3.2%
Decliners were led by V.F ( VFC ), a producer of lifestyle apparel, footwear and related products, which was down by 8.5% after reporting on Thursday fourth quarter adjusted earnings of $1.01 per share, up from $0.90 per share in the prior year period but just shy of the $1.02 per share Street estimate provided by Capital IQ.
Shares in Kraft Heinz ( KHC )were 4.7% lower after the food and beverage company reported fourth quarter adjusted earnings of $0.90 per share, down from $0.91 in the comparable period a year ago. And Vulcan Materials Company (VMC)was also 4.7% lower after the supplier of construction materials reported fourth quarter adjusted diluted earnings per share of $0.74, up from $0.69 for the same period last year.
Campbell Soup Company (CPB) was 3.1% lower after the manufacturer of food products reported fiscal second quarter adjusted net income of $1 per share, up from $0.91 per share in the prior year period and higher than the $0.81 per share Street estimate provided by Capital IQ.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was 0.49% higher, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up by 0.41% and the Nasdaq was 0.31% higher at the time of writing.
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