* Nasdaq touches record intraday high
* New single-family home sales unexpectedly rise in July
* Investors await Fed Chair Yellen’s Friday speech
* Indexes up: Dow 0.13 pct, S&P 0.26 pct, Nasdaq 0.36 pct (Updates to mid-afternoon trading, changes byline)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
Aug 23 (Reuters) - U.S. stock advanced on Tuesday, as gains in the tech sector helped lift the Nasdaq to a record intraday high and solid housing market data provided more evidence the economy may be strengthening.
With the U.S. earnings season winding down, investors are also assessing the likelihood of an interest rate hike in the coming months.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s speech on Friday at Jackson Hole will be scrutinized for clues on the timing of a rate hike, especially after some Fed policymakers in recent days hinted at the possibility of a hike in the near-term.
The meeting, which includes central bankers from across the world, will begin on Thursday and has traditionally been a platform for the Fed to signal the direction of monetary policy.
Data on Tuesday showed new U.S. single-family home sales unexpectedly rose in July, reaching their highest level in nearly nine years as demand increased broadly, brightening the housing market outlook. The PHLX housing sector index rose 1.9 percent and was on track for its best daily performance in about six weeks.
“We seem to just be in this period with no real pressure to raise rates anytime soon, even if they were to raise I think everyone agrees it would only be a small raise and one raise for the year,” said Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.
“Investors have just become not necessarily buyers at this valuation, but they are not sellers.”
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 23.7 points, or 0.13 percent, to 18,553.12, the S&P 500 gained 5.62 points, or 0.26 percent, to 2,188.26 and the Nasdaq Composite added 18.65 points, or 0.36 percent, to 5,263.26.
Materials, up 1.1 percent, were the best performing sector, led by a 4.9 percent climb in CF Industries after UBS upgraded the stock to a “buy” rating. Technology shares, however, provided the biggest boost to the benchmark S&P index, as both Apple and Microsoft rose about 0.5 percent.
J.M. Smucker dropped 8.3 percent after its quarterly revenue missed estimates. The stock was the primary drag on the consumer staples index, which edged 0.1 percent lower.
Best Buy surged 18.5 percent as the best performer on the S&P 500 after the electronics retailer posted an unexpected quarterly profit.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.69-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.26-to-1 ratio favored advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 27 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 139 new highs and 12 new lows. (Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Nick Zieminski)