The homebuilders weren't as fortunate. Banc of America downgraded Toll Brothers ( TOL) to sell from neutral and cut Hovnanian ( HOV) and Standard Pacific ( SPF) to neutral from buy, saying it believes cancellations have been increasing.

All three stocks traded lower.

Separately, RealtyTrac said the number of foreclosure filings in July soared 93% from the same month a year ago to 179,599, illustrating the difficulties facing the housing arena.

Treasury bonds were on the rise. The 30-year gained 9/32 in price, lowering the yield to 4.95%, and the 10-year note added 9/32 in price, yielding 4.59%. Yields on three-month bills rebounded to 3.62% after plunging during the last session.

As for the foreign-exchange market, the dollar was little changed against the yen and the euro.

Overseas, the People's Bank of China raised interest rates for the fourth time this year as the central bank aimed to control inflation. In Europe, the Bank of England said at least one lender used its lending facility, similar to the Fed's discount window, for the first time in over a month.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.6%, and Japan's Nikkei 225 climbed 1.1% overnight. London's FTSE was up 0.1%, and Germany's Xetra Dax tacked on 0.2%.

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