Richard Drew, Associated Press
Robert McQuade, left, works with fellow traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014.

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks were mostly higher in early trading Wednesday as investors assessed earnings reports from retailers and other companies. Home builders rose after sales of new homes jumped in January to fastest pace in more than five years.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index edged up four points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,849 as of 10:25 a.m. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 42 points, or 0.3 percent, to 16,225. The Nasdaq composite rose 11 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,298.

HOME SPENDING: Lowe's climbed $2.47, or 5.1 percent, to $50.59. The company said its net income rose 6 percent in the most recent quarter as the home-improvement retailer continued to benefit from a recovery in the housing market.

IN OTHER HOUSING NEWS: Several home builder stocks rose sharply after the government reported that U.S. sales of new homes rebounded in January to the fastest pace in more than five years. That's a hopeful signs after a slowdown in the housing market last year caused by higher interest rates. PulteGroup rose 56 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $21.24 and Lennar rose $1.38, or 3 percent, to $43.65.

BOOKING A PROFIT: Barnes & Noble rose 81 cents, or 4.6 percent, to $18.15 after reporting a third-quarter profit. Cost cuts at the company's Nook e-reader unit and elsewhere helped offset declining revenue. Barnes & Noble has been trying to turn itself around as competition from discount stores and online retailers gets tougher and consumers shift to buying digital books.

DON'T LET THE SUN GO DOWN: First Solar slumped Wednesday after reporting earnings that fell short of financial analysts' expectations. The company's stock fell $6.73, or 11.6 percent, to $51.45.

CLOSE, BUT NO RECORD: The S&P 500 index has climbed above its record closing high of 1,848.38 during the last two days, only to fall below that level before the market closed. The level is starting to turn into a psychological hurdle for traders and investors. The index needs to close decisively above 1,850 before it can climb further, said JJ Kinahan, a strategist at TD Ameritrade.

BONDS AND COMMODITIES: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was little changed from Tuesday at 2.70 percent. The price of oil rose 40 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $102.22 a barrel. Gold fell $10.10, or 0.8 percent to $1,332.80 an ounce.