Stock markets got a boost today from stronger-than-expected data about the economy. On the housing side, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said home prices rose 0.6% in December, while the S&P/Case-Shiller index rose 0.2%. Further, the Department of Commerce said new-home sales rose 15.6% in January to an annual rate of 437,000, a rate not seen since July 2008. Consumer confidence also rose in February, according to the Conference Board, whose index rose to 69.6 from 58.4 in January, surpassing the estimate of 62.3. Add all of this up, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) is up 0.8% as of 3:25 p.m. EST, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) is climbing 0.53%.
Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) has led the 30 Dow components, rising 5.2% on the strong housing data and better-than-expected earnings. Earnings jumped 32% to $0.68 per share, which was $0.04 better than estimates. The company also increased its quarterly dividend to $0.39 per share and announced a $17 billion share repurchase program. This is a hugely bullish bet by Home Depot on the long-term recovery in housing, and it should be an indicator of stability in that market going forward.
Tech stocks Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) and Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) are also moving the Dow higher, climbing 3.4% and 1.8%, respectively. HP announced a deal to sell the webOS mobile operating system to LG Electronics, ending the company's failed attempts to revive the mobile platform. The company will go with the Android operating system for new tablets, which it hopes can help bolster sales.
Intel's shares rose after the company announced an agreement to develop chips for Altera's semiconductors. The deal will use Intel's 14-nanometer tri-gate transistor technology and reportedly comes with margins in excess of 50%. Intel needs all the good news it can get as its traditional PC business slowly fades, so investors cheered the news today.
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