By FRANCESCA LEVY
NEW YORK – Stocks opened higher Tuesday after strong earnings reports from Johnson & Johnson, Zions Bancorporation and other companies. Housing starts increased more than expected in March.
Zions rose 6 percent, the most of any company in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. The Utah bank reported a first-quarter profit after posting a loss a year ago. It also said customers were getting better at paying back loans, allowing the bank to set aside less money to cover defaults.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 41 points, or 0.3 percent, to 12,242. The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 4 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,309. The Nasdaq composite rose 5, or 0.2 percent, to 2,740.
Health care heavyweight Johnson & Johnson rose 3 percent. The company beat Wall Street’s earnings expectations and raised its full-year earnings forecast.
The Commerce Department reported that builders broke ground in March on the highest number of new homes in six months. Home construction rose 7.2 percent from February, more than analysts had expected.
Trucking company Paccar Inc. rose 5 percent after its income and revenues beat analysts’ expectations.
United States Steel Corp. rose 3 percent after announcing the sale of its 841-foot U.S. Steel Tower, Pittsburgh’s tallest building, to a New york-based investment group.
Harley Davidson reported its income more than tripled, but missed Wall Street estimates. The motorcycle maker’s stock fell 2 percent.
Texas Instruments Inc. fell 1 percent after the chip-maker said late Monday that the Japanese earthquake and tsunami set its production back, limiting first-quarter income and likely cutting into second-quarter growth.
A number of tech giants, including Intel Corp. and IBM Corp., are expected to report after the end of trading.
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