Stocks end mostly higher after housing starts jump

A surprisingly strong housing report helped push stocks modestly higher, even as weak earnings reports from Intel and IBM weighed on the Dow Jones industrial average.

The Dow eked out a gain of five points to close at 13,557.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained six points to 1,461. The Nasdaq composite index edged up three points to 3,104.

IBM reported sales late Tuesday that dropped below Wall Street's expectations, while Intel warned that sales of personal computers will likely remain weak during the holiday season.

On the plus side, builders broke ground on new single-family houses and apartments at the fastest pace since July 2008.

Two stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was above average at 3.5 billion shares.