U.S. stocks advanced in early trade on Tuesday, following better-than-expected housing data and encouraging quarterly results from Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson.

The S&P 500 Index advanced 2.82 points, or 0.22 percent, to trade at 1,307.76 at 9:50 a.m. EDT. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 30.58 points, or 0.25 percent, to trade at 12,232.17. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.21 percent.

The US Commerce Department reported that privately-owned housing starts in March jumped 7.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 549,000 from upwardly revised annual rate of 512,000 in February, while economists’ expected housing starts to climb to 520,000 in March.

Building permits increased by 11.2 percent to an annual rate of 594,000, compared with upwardly revised 534,000 in the previous month and against economists’ estimation of 540,000.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE:GS) advanced 0.83 percent to $154.92. The company reported first quarter net income of $1.56 per share on $11.9 billion revenue, while analysts’ expected a net income of $0.82 per share on $10.18 billion revenue.

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) shares gained 2.8 percent to $62.15 in early trade. The company reported first quarter net income of $3.48 billion or $1.25 per share compared to $4.53 billion or $1.62 per share in the same quarter last year. The company raised its fiscal year 2011 earnings view to between $4.90 and $5.00 a share from its prior range of $4.80 to $4.90 per share.

US stocks ended sharply lower on Monday after Standard & Poor’s (S&P) revised its rating outlook on the United States to negative.

The euro advanced 0.43 percent to 1.4296 against the dollar and the yen gained 0.24 percent against the greenback.

Crude oil futures declined 0.08 percent to $107.03/barrel and gold futures rose 0.17 percent.

European stock markets are currently trading higher with FTSE 100 up by 43.67 points, DAX30 up by 36.78 points and CAC 40 up by 35.94 points.