Markets are sprightly today, the day after the Federal Open Market Committee announced that it will carry on with the $10 billion monthly taper of its quantitative easing program. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is up 0.91% at noon EST, aided by some good news on gross domestic product, as well as a jump in the share price of Visa (NYSE:V), which delivered a pleasing first-quarter earnings report bright and early this morning.
Focusing on the positive
In an indication that the Fed's pullback of quantitative easing is no longer striking fear into investors' hearts, the announcement that monthly bond purchases will be reduced to $65 billion in February did not cause the markets any undue stress. There was a slew of economic data out this morning, and it seems like markets are choosing to accentuate the positive and ignore the negative.
The Department of Labor announced that initial jobless claims were up by 19,000 last week, bringing the total to 348,000. Housing data wasn't wonderful, either, with the National Association of Realtors reporting that pending home sales plummeted 8.7% in December from the month previous -- and 8.8% from December 2012.
Not surprisingly, Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rate survey revealed that both 30-year and 15-year fixed-rate loans dropped this week, likely reflecting the gloomy home sales data.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis saved the day, as its before-the-bell report about fourth-quarter GDP seemed to keep markets humming, despite the sobering jobs and housing data. From the third quarter's real GDP increase of 4.1%, the initial estimate for the fourth quarter is that GDP rose at an annual rate of 3.2%. While this percentage might change, the increase in real personal consumption -- from 2% in the third quarter to 3.3% in the fourth quarter -- is likely seen as a harbinger of better times to come.
Visa up after earnings, MasterCard may lose fee case
Visa's fourth quarter earnings report beat estimates on both earnings and revenue. Strong payments volume growth of 13% in the first quarter helped Visa earn $2.20 per share, with revenue up 12.3% year over year to $3.2 billion.
The company kept its guidance for the year intact, predicting annual net growth in the low double-digits and annual free cash flow in the neighborhood of $5 billion. Investors seem pleased, and the stock is up 1.9% at noon.
Rival MasterCard (NYSE:MA) received some disappointing news regarding its fight with the European Union over transaction fees paid by EU retailers. The payments giant is appealing a 2007 decision that limits the fees MasterCard can levy on retailers, but a recent opinion by an adviser to the EU Court of Justice backed the decision by European regulators. Though nonbinding, Bloomberg noted that this type of opinion is generally embraced by the court.
Stocks to hold onto for the long haul
As every savvy investor knows, Warren Buffett didn't make billions by betting on half-baked stocks. He isolated his best few ideas, bet big, and rode them to riches, hardly ever selling. You deserve the same. That's why our CEO, legendary investor Tom Gardner, has permitted us to reveal The Motley Fool's 3 Stocks to Own Forever. These picks are free today! Just click here now to uncover the three companies we love.
Amanda Alix has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends MasterCard and Visa. The Motley Fool owns shares of MasterCard and Visa. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.