U.S. builders broke ground on fewer homes in November after starting work in October at the fastest pace in four years. Superstorm Sandy probably distorted the totals in the Northeast.
The Commerce Department said builders began construction of houses and apartments at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 861,000. That was 3 percent less than October's annual rate of 888,000, the fastest since July 2008.
Materials stocks fell just 0.5 percent, less than the rest of the market. Industrials fell 0.7 percent. Elsewhere on Wall Street, telecommunications stocks and health care stocks fared the worst, down 1.2 percent and 1.1 percent respectively.
Oracle, which makes software for businesses, jumped $1.21, or 3.7 percent, to $34.09 after reporting stronger earnings as companies splurged on software and other technology.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell 0.02 percentage point to 1.80 percent. The price of oil climbed $1.58, or 1.8 percent, to $89.51 per barrel.
Among other stocks in the news:
— FedEx gained 84 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $93.20. The world's No. 2 package delivery company lowered its economic forecast for the United States but said it was more confident in its own ability to increase earnings.
— Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia gained 7cents to $2.65. It fell during the day to $2.30, a three-year low, after CEO Lisa Gersh stepped down after less than a year on the job.