The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) is looking sprightly today, as the Federal Open Market Committee meeting begins, featuring outgoing Chairman Ben Bernanke and (probably) more quantitative easing tapering for February.
If the market is afraid of what the Fed has in store for the economy, it isn't showing at the moment. Though seesawing a bit, the Dow remains firmly in the green, having gained 0.27% by late morning.
Economic data: pretty drab
The U.S. Census Bureau started off the economic calendar today, revealing that durable goods orders dropped by a precipitous 4.3% in December, compared with a gain of 2.6% for November. Experts had expected an increase of 1.6%. Not surprisingly, inventories of such goods expanded, with the 0.8% rise to $387.8 billion reflecting the highest level since the index began.
This disappointing nugget of news was followed by the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, which showed that housing price increases are indeed slowing. November price gains were down 0.1% from the previous month, the first drop since November 2012. The 20-city composite price index posted a gain year over year, however, of 13.7%.
Confidence measures were snappy this morning, as both consumers and investors look ahead with their rose-colored glasses firmly in place. The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index jumped again in January. Consumer confidence now sits at 80.7, versus December's 77.5, and the Present Situation Index rose to 79.1 from a prior 75.3. This marked the second month in a row that overall confidence increased on both indices.
State Street released its gauge of investor confidence, showing a hike to 114.4 in January, up 18.6 points from December. This represents the biggest jump in four years, with the North American confidence index leading the way by increasing to 113.6 from the prior 92.1.
Happiness extends to financials
With lots of green on tap today, Visa (NYSE: V) was up 1.7% by noon EST, very possibly enjoying a couple of pre-earnings reviews by analysts. Sandler O'Neill has labeled the credit card giant a buy, putting a price target of $250 on the company's stock. The Street reiterated its own buy rating this morning, noting that revenue growth exceeds the industry average and that Visa sports very little debt. The company reports earnings bright and early on Thursday.
American Express (NYSE: AXP) has gained nearly 1.3% this morning. The company announced the launch of a new business product this morning, which may be helping the stock climb. The Enhanced SimplyCash Business Credit Card will allow small businesses to annually change the categories in which they can choose their cash-back rewards. The company claims that its card is the only one to offer business owners this benefit.
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