US stocks opened mixed as reports showed housing starts rose and consumer confidence dropped.
Housing starts increased to an annualised rate of 1.07m in April, a Commerce Department report showed, beating analysts' estimates of 980,000. The federal government revised the figure for March upwards to 947,000.
"Altogether, today's report on US housing starts should help to assuage Federal Open Market Committee concerns that housing activity was flattening out as opposed to gradually recovering after successive adverse shocks from higher mortgage rates last year and adverse weather more recently," said Barclays Research.
"The report has lifted our second quarter GDP tracking estimate by two-tenths to 3.1%, while our first quarter GDP tracking estimate remains unchanged at -0.6%."
US consumer confidence, however, unexpectedly declined in May, according to the preliminary reading of the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan. The sentiment index dropped to 81.8 this month from 84.1 in April. Economists had predicted a reading of 84.5.
"The fall in consumer confidence in May comes at the end of a week in which we also received weak retail sales and industrial production numbers," Capital Economics said.
"But we think that the underlying trend in economic activity is upwards, meaning that it shouldn't be long before confidence starts to climb again."
Small businesses boost jobs, says Yellen
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has said small businesses have accounted for more than half the job gains in the economic recovery over the past five years.
In a speech at the Chamber of Commerce last night, she said the Fed has tried to foster job creation by keeping interest rates near record lows but that "overwhelmingly, it is businesses that create jobs".
US and UK diplomats have warned of further sanctions in Russia if this month's Ukrainian presidential election is undermined.
"If Russia or its proxies disrupt the elections," the US and its allies "will impose sectoral economic sanctions as a result," Secretary of State John Kerry said in London yesterday after meeting his counterparts from Britain, Italy,
France and Germany.
Darden Restaurants, Chesapeake Energy
Darden Restaurants slipped after agreeing to sell its Red Lobster chain for $2.1bn.
Chesapeake Energy dropped after saying it will cut half its workforce.
Verizon Communications edged higher as Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway disclosed a stake.
Nordstrom gained as the luxury department-store chain reported quarterly results that exceeded estimates.
US 10-year yields rose two basis points to 2.51%.
West Texas Intermediate crude futures increased $0.773 to $109.940 per barrel, according to the ICE.