A rare double shot of good news about the U.S. economy sent stocks strongly higher Wednesday.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 92 points despite lingering fear about Europe's debt turmoil.

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Americans signed more contracts to buy previously occupied homes in May, matching the fastest pace in two years, the National Association of Realtors said. It was the latest signal that the housing market is improving in many regions following a slump of more than six years.

Home builders' stocks soared. Lennar Corp. rose 4.78 percent to $28.70. Lennar had reported earlier that its second-quarter profit rose as it boosted deliveries and new orders. PulteGroup, D.R. Horton and Hovnanian Enterprises also rose sharply.

Earlier, the government said that businesses placed more orders for long-lasting manufactured goods in May, suggesting that their confidence in the U.S. economy was not shaken by signs of weakness that emerged this spring. Core goods, a measure of business investment plans, also jumped.

The Dow closed up 92.34 points to close at 12,627.01. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.90 percent to finish at 1,331.85. The Nasdaq composite average was up 0.74 percent to 2,875.32. -- AP