Wall St closes higher on housing data

AAP, with a staff reporter

United States stocks closed higher, and the S&P 500 index flirted with a fresh record, after a leading index of housing prices showed a steep price increase.

The Dow Jones set a new record, while the S&P 500 narrowly missed, coming within two points of its October 2007 all-time high of 1,565.15 points.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 0.77 per cent to 14,559.18, breaking the previous mark of March 14.

The S&P, which measures a broad base of equities in all major economic sectors, shot up 0.78 per cent to 1,563.77 points, just short of its all-time closing high of 1,565.15.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.53 per cent to 3,252.48.

The trading came after S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price index showed average home prices rose 8.1 per cent for 20 leading cities for the 12 months ending in January 2013.

But the Conference Board index of consumer confidence dropped 8.3 points to 59.7, weakened by concerns over federal budget cuts.

The rise in stocks to fresh record levels is like a "self-fulfilling prophesy," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist for Standard & Poor's.

"There are an awful lot of people on the sidelines who would like to have more exposure to equities," Stovall said.

The rise was the highest year-over-year increase since summer 2006, David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said.