Wall Street opted to focus on another report pointing to better-than-expected signs of recovery in the American real estate market, as both Intel and IBM failed to deliver with their latest results.
US housing starts jumped 15 per cent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 872,000 units, according to Commerce Department data. The increase easily surpassed forecasts, and came after yesterday's report showing that confidence among homebuilders in October climbed to the highest level in a little over six years.
"One of the big headwinds for the economy has been the weak housing market and this indicates that headwind has dissipated," Gary Thayer, an economic strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors in St Louis, Missouri, told Reuters.
The latest US corporate earnings, however, showed plenty of challenges.
Shares of IBM suffered, last down 5.7 per cent, after posting third-quarter revenue that fell short of analysts' forecasts, while those of Intel were last 3.1 per cent weaker after its fourth-quarter earnings outlook didn't live up to expectations.
That left Wall Street mixed. In afternoon trading in New York, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 0.28 per cent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.24 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 0.13 per cent.
"The housing number gave people some confidence that maybe we are moving in the right direction economically, so it's one of those days where the glass seems half full more than half empty," Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in New York, told Reuters.
In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index ended the day with a 0.5 per cent gain on the previous close. And the euro strengthened 0.6 per cent against the greenback, while rising 0.5 per cent against the Japanese yen.
The mood on the euro zone was bolstered by Moody's decision late yesterday to confirm Spain's investment grade credit rating, fuelling optimism about the progress made in containing the region's debt crisis.
"It's all about expectations, which Spain was able to beat," Michael Woolfolk, senior currency strategist in New York at Bank of New York Mellon, told Bloomberg. "There has been talk about renewed appetite on behalf of Spain to take advantage of the next financial bailout package."
Spanish 10-year yields fell 32 basis points on the day to 5.50 per cent, a level last seen early in April, according to Reuters. The spread over benchmark German Bunds fell below 400 basis points for the first time in more than six months.
Of course the EU crisis is yet unresolved. Germany today cut its growth forecast for 2013 to 1 per cent, and S&P today cut its rating on Cyprus, which earlier in the day said it expected talks with lenders to begin next week.