* Home Depot climbs after earnings, outlook
* Apple retakes triple-digit territory, hits $100
* July U.S. housing starts exceed expectations; CPI barely rises
* Dow up 0.5 pct; S&P 500 up 0.4 pct; Nasdaq up 0.3 pct (Updates to midday)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Aug 19 U.S. stocks advanced on Tuesday after solid earnings from Home Depot helped lift retailers' shares and Apple touched $100 for the first time since its stock split this summer. Data on housing and inflation gave the market more support.
Home Depot Inc gained 6 percent to $88.66, marking the stock's largest percentage gain since May 2009 and giving the biggest boost to the Dow. The world's largest home improvement retailer reported earnings and revenue that topped Wall Street's expectations. Home Depot also raised its full-year profit forecast.
The S&P 500 retail index shot up 2 percent, its biggest gain since Feb. 6. The index is up nearly 6 percent for the month so far.
Apple Inc returned to the triple-digit zone, hitting $100 for the first time since its seven-for-one stock split in June and giving the iPad and iPhone maker a market capitalization that topped $600 billion. The rally in Apple's stock was the single biggest force lifting the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100 index on Tuesday. At midday, Apple was up 1.3 percent at $100.49.
"People have been looking to put a stake in the heart of retailers, due to a weak consumer and weak jobs market, relatively speaking, but they have been a 'bend but don't break' group, which gives a comfort to those on the fence," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.
Housing starts rebounded strongly in July as groundbreaking surged 15.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.09 million units to halt two straight months of declines and top expectations for a rate of 969,000 units.
In addition, the Consumer Price Index edged up 0.1 percent last month, in line with expectations, which could give the Federal Reserve reason to keep interest rates low for a while.
"All of these together are giving the market a good tone, shrugging off the recent dip related to geopolitical concerns," Bakhos said.
Minutes from the Federal Reserve's July meeting will be released on Wednesday. Investors will also closely monitor the annual meeting of top central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, from Thursday through Saturday for possible insight into the path for monetary policy.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 75.83 points or 0.45 percent, to 16,914.57. The S&P 500 gained 8.54 points or 0.43 percent, to 1,980.28. The Nasdaq Composite added 12.39 points or 0.27 percent, to 4,520.70.
Shares of discount retailer TJX Cos Inc jumped 8.6 percent to $58.51 and the stock of teen-oriented chain Urban Outfitters Inc rose 4.1 percent to $38.43 - both after quarterly results.
Dick's Sporting Goods shares advanced 3.3 percent to $44.96 after the retailer's second-quarter results topped analysts' forecasts.
The shares of youth-oriented retailer Aeropostale Inc surged 22.8 percent to $3.98. Aeropostale said it had reappointed Julian Geiger as chief executive officer and forecast a smaller loss than its earlier view.
In contrast to retailers' overall strength for the day, shares of Elizabeth Arden Inc sank 24 percent to $14.91 after the company reported the biggest quarterly loss in its history due to a steeper-than-anticipated drop in sales of celebrity perfumes. (Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Nick Zieminski and Jan Paschal)