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Stocks Up, Data Shows Inflation in Check

August 17, 2004
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks gained on Tuesday after two separate economic reports showed inflationary pressure was held in check in July and U.S. housing starts rebounded sharply in the same month.

Home Depot Inc., the world's largest home improvement retailer, was a boost to the Dow and S&P 500 indexes after it posted better-than-expected earnings. Motorola Inc., the world's second-largest mobile phone maker, also helped markets after it said it expects to sustain strong sales growth in the second half of 2004.

Crude oil futures eased but still remained above $45 per barrel. Though the price of crude has slid in recent days, it is not far off from its 21-year high hit on Monday.

In economic news, U.S. consumer prices dropped in July for the first time in eight months as a sharp run up in energy costs reversed, the government said in a report showing underlying inflation pressures largely in check. The consumer prices index, or CPI, is the most widely used gauge of U.S. inflation.

U.S. housing starts rebounded sharply in July, making up almost all the ground lost in a June slump by posting their largest monthly percentage gain since September 2002, a separate report from the Commerce Department showed.

Also, U.S. industrial output advanced in July, as American factories operated at their highest capacity in more than three years, a third report said.

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