Stock markets have recovered from early losses and are now close to breaking even on the day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) is now down just 0.22%, and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) has fallen 0.11%.
The pessimism this morning involved concerns in Europe and a 0.4% decline in pending home sales in February. The National Association of Realtors said its pending-home-sales index fell to 104.8, which was still up more than 8% from a year ago. Housing is a big part of the economic recovery, and even one bad reading can put investors in a bad mood.
The housing data has Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) down 0.7%, today but the stock is still within striking distance of its 52-week high. What we should really be looking at is the long-term growth in the housing industry instead of the month-to-month gyrations. It's this long-term growth that has sent Home Depot higher and what will drive it in the future as well.
Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) has also moved sharply lower today, losing 1.3% of its value. The stock is now the fifth-most shorted stock on the Dow, showing that investors are turning more bearish on the company.
On the flip side, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH ) is up 1.8% on hope that Medicare payments may rise. Bloomberg is reporting that congressional researchers have the authority to raise payments to insurers if officials assume that a 25% cut in physicians' pay won't go into effect. This could lead payment rates to rise by 4% to 5%, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. Higher rates means bigger profits -- something all investors want.
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