Investors got a fresh dose of economic data on Friday with housing showing some green shoots after the harsh winter. The Commerce Department reported that home building jumped 13.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.07 million units, up from 947,000 in March. The increase was fueled by a rise in multi-family units. Meantime, building permits, a gauge of future activity, rose 8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.08 million, the highest level in nearly six years.
In other economic news, consumers sentiment fell to 81.8 in May, down from 84.1 the prior month according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary reading.
After a rough week for retailers, JCPenney (JCP) delivered a pleasant surprise. The stock jumped more than 16% on the day after it reported a smaller-than-expected loss of $1.15 per share and sales jumped 6.2% to $2.8 billion, topping estimates.
General Motors (GM) was back in the headlines. GM shares closed down about 1%. The automaker agreed to pay a $35 million fine to settle a federal probe over the way it handled its recall of vehicles with faulty ignition switches.
In other corporate news, Darden Restaurants (DRI) slipped more than 4% on the day after the company said it would sell its Red Lobster seafood chain to Golden Gate Capital for $2.1 billion. The deal will give it an infusion of cash it needs to pay down debt and help revive its Olive Garden business.
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