LOS ANGELES (AP) -- U.S. homebuilding stocks got a lift Wednesday from a pair of positive housing reports that provided further evidence that a gradually strengthening housing recovery is under way.
PulteGroup Inc. led the sector, gaining more than 6 percent in early afternoon trading.
The National Association of Realtors reported that sales of previously occupied homes rose 7.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.82 million, the most since May 2010.
In a separate report, the government said that construction of new single-family homes in August occurred at the fastest rate in more than two years.
The positive reports come a day after an index measuring builders' confidence climbed to the highest level in more than six years and suggest that the U.S. housing turnaround is gaining momentum.
Sales of new homes are running ahead of last year, when they fell to the lowest point in a half century. August figures are due out next week.
The improved sales trends have helped propel builder stocks by nearly double, on average, so far this year.
Among the builders rallying on Wednesday, PulteGroup was up $1.09, or 6.9 percent, to $16.85.
D.R. Horton Inc. rose 96 cents, or 4.5 percent, to $22.31; Lennar Corp. added 97 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $36.56; KB Home gained 50 cents, or 4 percent, to $13.20; Toll Brothers Inc. rose $1.30, or 3.7 percent, to $36.49; Beazer Homes USA Inc. added 26 cents, or 7 percent, to $3.79; and, Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. gained 9 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $3.88.
Elsewhere in the sector, Meritage Homes Corp. rose 97 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $39.75; Ryland Group Inc. gained $1.67, or 5.5 percent, to $31.75; Standard Pacific Corp. added 26 cents, or 3.8 percent, to $7.38; MDC Holdings Inc. jumped $1.30, or 3.4 percent, to $39; and, M/I Homes Inc. gained 48 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $20.50.