The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) finished the day up, with cyclical and energy stocks leading the way.
|Dow Jones Industrial Average||+34.59 [0.27%]||13,080.73|
|S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC )||+4.33 [+0.31%]||1,397.11|
The only news this morning was that sales of new homes fell 1.6% in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 313,000. That's down from 318,000 in January and below analysts' expectations of 325,000.
There's been a hodgepodge of housing data this week giving off mixed signals. February home sales were down month over month and slightly below analyst forecasts. However, existing-home sales were still at their highest levels of the past five years. While sales were slightly down, in a joint release the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that building permits rose 5% in February. Amidst all this mixed news, the important thing to note is the last stat. Building permits are a forward-looking indicator and indicate that housing activity is expanding.
The main focus of today's rally were cyclical and energy stocks, which are rising on general sentiment that the global economy is improving. Both European and U.S. markets were up for the day. Caterpillar, Alcoa, and Chevron all rose roughly 1%, with many more cyclicals positive for the day.
Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) was today's top Dow stock, up 2.61% to $23.63. Tuesday night, the company announced a merger of its flailing PC and printer divisions to cut costs, and the market responded by sending Hewlett-Packard down 4% the next two days. Fool analyst Rich Smith is less than impressed and believes this is little more than trying to make the PC division look better than it really is. The printing division is Hewlett-Packard's strongest business, with a 42% market share. Bargain-hunting investors were probably picking up shares after two straight down days.
Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) was today's worst Dow stock, down 0.61% to $39.42. The stock fell on a down day for telecom stocks across the board. AT&T was down 0.6%, Sprint Nextel fell 0.2%, and Vodafone declined 0.3%. There was no specific news driving down the sector; the markets just seemed to decide these stocks should become cheaper today.
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