D.R. Horton Jumps on Earnings, but Ford Is Stuck in Neutral

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

After three straight down days, the market bounced back today, as all three indexes gained measurably for the first time in several sessions as a strong consumer confidence report seemed to buoy investors. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) finished up 91 points, or 0.6%, as strong earnings reports from Pfizer and other helped big names helped boost the market. Today also marked the first day of the Federal Reserve's two-day Open Market Committee meeting. Tomorrow at 2 p.m., investors will learn if the central bank has decided to take another step in the taper of its bond-buying program, which is now at $75 billion a month. And as referenced, consumer confidence hit a five-month high as the Conference Board's measure jumped to 80.7, up from 77.5 in December, topping estimates of 78. The survey also marked the higher percentage of Americans saying jobs were currently plentiful since August 2008.

Among stocks catching today's wave was D.R. Horton (NYSE: DHI  ) , gaining 10% on a strong earnings report. The nation's biggest homebuilder posted earnings of $0.36 per share, better than estimates of $0.29 while revenues improved a robust 32.7% to $1.64 billion, easily clearing the consensus at $1.47 billion. The housing recovery has been one of the key elements lifting the economy over the past year, and, as Horton's report makes clear, that recovery has carried on through the fourth quarter, a promising sign for the economy as well. The number of homes closed improved 19%, and management noted, "Housing market conditions continue to improve across most of our operating markets." Homebuilder stocks are notoriously volatile, but based on that assessment, the industry seems headed for another win this year.

After hours, Ford (NYSE: F  ) was essentially flat despite beating earnings estimates. The carmaker posted a per-share profit of $0.31, beating estimates of $0.28. Revenues, however, improved just 3% to $35.6 million, though that was enough to beat expectations at $35.3 million. Still, the company's guidance for 2014 as it said pre-tax profit would be about $7 to $8 billion on flat revenue. It also said it expects operating margin to be lower than last year, and automotive cash flow to be substantially lower. Given that view, it's surprising that shares didn't fall after hours.

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