Equities endured another up-and-down ride today, as traders took pause to contemplate the state of the U.S. economy. As the week unfolds, a plethora of housing data has hit the Street, highlighting a somewhat choppy recovery for the housing market. Today's report -- courtesy of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) -- revealed that existing home sales unexpectedly declined by 0.9% in February to 4.59 million, compared to an upwardly revised 4.63 million in January. However, sales for the first two months of 2012 were at their highest levels in over five years. Unfortunately, this development didn't garner much enthusiasm from the bulls. Likewise, Wall Street shrugged its shoulders at today's Congressional testimony by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, as the central banker asserted that the U.S. could likely hold up relatively well in the event of a deeper euro-zone debt crisis. With no major news to embolden the bulls or the bears, it was a mixed finish for the major market indexes.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA – 13,124.62) headed south after briefly reaching above breakeven early in the session. By the closing bell, the Dow pulled back 46 points, or 0.4%. Nine out of the 30 blue chips settled with gains, as Home Depot (HD) led the winning issues with a 0.8% increase. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) paced the 20 laggards with a 2.2% tumble, while General Electric (GE) was unmoved.
The S&P 500 Index (SPX – 1,402.89) closed a second straight session in the red, inching lower by 2.6 points, or 0.2%. Finally, The Nasdaq Composite (COMP – 3,075.32) tagged a new 11-plus year high of 3,090.08 today, and ended the session up 1.2 points, or 0.04%.
Turning to equities in focus, despite a better-than-expected fourth-quarter showing, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (KKD) retreated in today's session ... Citigroup boosted its price target for Jabil Circuit (JBL) after earnings ... Hartford Financial Services Group (HIG) is in downsizing mode ... One options player constructed a long put spread on Baker Hughes (BHI) in the front-month series ... Nielsen Holdings (NLSN) priced its secondary stock offering ... and today's Quote of the Day comes from Roz Carlin, a 92-year old taking on the technology age. Telling the Los Angeles Times about her progress in a Pace University program that pairs computer-literate college students with senior citizens, Carlin explained:
"It's so hard to do. But at least I've stopped crying."
But these weren't the only headlines hitting the Street today. Click on the links below for our blog coverage of:
And, in case you missed it, Senior Technical Strategist Ryan Detrick took a look at analyst ratings, and how they can be used as a contrarian indicator. Click here to read Ryan's take on the current analyst ratings configuration for SPX components.
For today's activity in crude oil, gold futures, options, and more, turn to page 2.
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