Dow Lifts Following Mixed Economic News

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  )  was on an upward trajectory as of noon EST, following a full morning of economic news that is likely whetting the appetites of analysts of investors for the biggest announcement of the day: the release of the October Federal Open Market Committee meeting minutes.

The Mortgage Bankers Association kicked off the day with news that mortgage applications dipped 2.3% last week, a third straight week of drops. Though overall demand fell by 6.7% over the past three weeks, refinancing fell by 6.5% last week, while purchase demand rose by 5.8%.

Home sales decreased in October for a second straight month, according to the National Association of Realtors, falling by 3.2% from September. While tight inventories are bumping up home prices slightly, the NAR noted that sales are 6% higher than the year-ago period. Low inventory is definitely a problem, the report says, and a dearth new home construction isn't helping matters.

The Census Bureau released data showing that business inventories were up 0.6% in September, more than the 0.3% increase expected by analysts. Retail sales rose 0.4%, better than the 0% that economists predicted, despite the government shutdown in October.

Taper concerns loom large today, as markets await the Federal Open Market Committee meeting minutes from October, scheduled for release later today. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech yesterday to the National Economists Club may have had a calming effect. He noted that there would be no change in short-term rates until the economy shows more improvement. Bernanke gave no additional clues concerning the timing of the taper, however, something that analysts will undoubtedly be looking for in the FOMC minutes.

Banking news
Goldman Sachs
is in the green this morning, following the news of JPMorgan Chase's (NYSE: JPM  ) epic fraud settlement with the Department of Justice yesterday. The $13 billion deal, which included a statement of wrongdoing by the bank, will hopefully settle a slew of regulators' charges against JPMorgan, and represents a huge chunk of the $23 billion the company set aside for legal costs.

While investors at first seemed to be relieved by the news, the stock was basically flat just after noon -- perhaps due to Attorney General Eric Holder's remark that these tough fraud investigations are "far from over".

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Goldman Sachs CAPS Rating: ***