Investing.com - U.S. stocks opened steady on Friday, after the release of upbeat U.S. housing data, as markets still eyed a preliminary report on consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan.
During early U.S. trade, the Dow 30 inched up 0.02%, the S&P 500 dipped 0.01%, while the NASDAQ Composite eased 0.09%.
Official data showed that U.S. building permits rose 8% to 1.080 million units last month, from an upwardly revised 1.000 million in March. Analysts had expected building permits to rise to 1.010 million units in April.
The report also showed that building starts rose to 1.072 million units in April, from 0.947 million in March, whose figure was revised up from a previously estimated 0.946 million. Analysts had expected building starts to rise to 0.980 million units last month.
Optimism over the strength of the U.S. economic recovery improved on Thursday after a string of upbeat economic reports were released on Thursday, including jobless claims and manufacturing activity in New York and Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, investors continued to monitor developments in Ukraine as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russia it faced broader economic and industrial sanctions if it meddled in Ukraine''s presidential elections on May 25.
JC Penney (NYSE:JCP) saw shares soar 15.23% after the department-store chain reported late Thursday its first quarterly sales gain since 2011. Although the company is still losing money, the first-quarter loss was narrower than expected.
In the same sector, Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) beat earnings expectations and said it would seek a partner for its credit card receivables, currently totaling about $2 billion, sending shares up 10.73%.
Among auto stocks, Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) gained 0.48% following reports the electric car maker edged out Toyota as the biggest auto-industry employer in California. The company said it now employs more than 6,000 people in the state.
On the downside, BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) plummeted 1.63% after announcing that director Bert Nordberg will not stand for re-election just a year after he was named, leaving the smartphone maker with six board members.
Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) added to losses, diving 3.59%, after the restaurant chain agreed to sell its struggling Red Lobster chain to Golden Gate Capital for $2.1 billion in cash.
Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were mixed. The DJ Euro Stoxx 50 added 0.16%, France’s CAC 40 inched 0.03% higher, Germany''s DAX slid 0.34%, while Britain''s FTSE 100 eased up 0.02%.
During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong''s Hang Seng edged down 0.08%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 tumbled 1.41%.
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