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Upturn in home construction sends stocks higher

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March 19, 2013 09:45 AM EST | AP


NEW YORK — A surprisingly strong increase in new home construction is sending stocks higher in early trading on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 40 points, or 0.3 percent, to 14,491 shortly after the opening bell Tuesday.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up two points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,554. The Nasdaq composite rose six points, also 0.2 percent, to 3,244.

The Commerce Department reported before the market opened that builders increased the number of homes and apartments they're constructing in February at the fastest pace in 4 1/2 years.

Home builder stocks including Lennar, Beazer Homes and PulteGroup rose.

European markets were tense ahead of a vote in the Mediterranean nation of Cyprus on a contentious plan to help fund that country's bailout by raiding bank deposits.