The Dow Jones industrial average rose 37 points to 12,843 in the first hour of trading. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose five points to 1,369. The Nasdaq composite climbed 22 points to 2,932.
Stocks of homebuilders rose after the government reported that builders broke ground last month on the most new homes and apartments in nearly four years. The 6.9 percent jump brought the number of housing starts to the highest since October 2008. KBHome rose 12 cents to $10.07 and D.R. Horton rose 14 cents to $18.78.
In earnings news, Bank of America reported income that beat most analysts' expectations for the second quarter, but its revenue fell short. Profit declined for both PNC Financial Services Group and the investment manager BlackRock. Both stocks fell more than 1 percent.
After the market closed Tuesday, Intel said a slowing global economy cut into its second quarter results. The chip maker warned that revenue this quarter will likely fall short of expectations.
American Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy protection in November, reported Wednesday that it is still losing money. AMR's second-quarter loss narrowed to $241 million mostly because of $230 million in costs tied to its bankruptcy restructuring. A year ago, it lost $286 million.
At the start of the earnings season last week, Wall Street analysts expected earnings for S&P 500 companies to fall 1 percent, according to S&P Capital IQ. That would be the first drop in nearly three years. Later today, IBM, eBay, American Express and Yum Brands, owner of Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, report earnings.
Investors will also watching Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's comments to see if the central bank may be close to launching another round of bond purchases. Bernanke is speaking to Congress on his second day of testimony on the state of the economy.