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Stocks Edge Up on Housing Data, Japan's Easing

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The major U.S. stock averages finished with slight gains Wednesday, buoyed by another batch of encouraging housing data and an unexpected easing of monetary policy by Japan's central bank.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 13 points, or 0.10%, at 13,578. Already up more than 11% year-to-date, the blue-chip index is on track for its biggest monthly point gain since October 2011.

Within the Dow, breadth was positive with winners outpacing losers 18 to 11 and American Express (AXP) finishing flat.

The top gainers were Walt Disney (DIS), Home Depot (HD) and Kraft Foods (KFT).

The biggest laggards were Exxon Mobil (XOM), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), and Intel (INTC).

The S&P 500 added less than 2 points, or 0.12%, to settle at 1461, while the Nasdaq tacked on nearly 5 points, or 0.15%, to finish at 3182.

The strongest sectors in the broad market were consumer cyclicals, services and conglomerates. Only the energy sector was lower. Volume was again light at 3.40 billion on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.85 billion on the Nasdaq.

Once again, the latest reads on the housing market were generally promising. The National Association of Realtors said before the open that existing-home sales rose 7.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.82 million in August from 4.47 million in July, better than the increase to a rate of 4.58 million expected by economists as buyers take advantage of "excellent housing affordability conditions," said Lawrence Yun , chief economist at the NAR.

The national median price rose on a year-over-year basis for the sixth straight month.

Paul Pagnato, managing director and partner at HighTower's Pagnato-Karp Group, has a lot of concerns on the investment outlook -- first and foremost on weak corporate revenue growth amid the slowdown across the world's largest economies. However, he said that's it's not all gloom and doom out there, and that there are a couple of very positive investment opportunities, one of them being real estate.

Noting the jump in existing August home sales, Pagnato said there are four major real estate sectors that are particular appealing: student housing, medical facilities, self-storage and senior living.

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