Stocks spent most of today's session treading near breakeven, but a late afternoon surge led by beaten-down small-cap stocks pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) to a win, with a gain of 45 points, or 0.3%. Elsewhere, the S&P 500 moved up 0.4%, and the Nasdaq gained 0.5%.
Verizon Communications was the big winner on the Dow, moving up 2.3% after Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway revealed that it had purchased 11 million shares of the telecom giant. Economic data also showed the economy strengthening, as two housing reports came in much better than expected. April housing starts jumped from a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 947,000 to 1.07 million, well ahead of expectations of 975,000. Similarly, building permits last month also jumped to 1.08 million from 1 million, beating estimates of 1.01 million. Concerns had arisen that the housing market had slowed following the colder-than-normal winter, but the April figures seemed to dispel that notion, as housing starts improved in every region of the country. A consumer confidence index from the University of Michigan fell slightly, dipping from 84.1 to 81.8, below estimates of 84.5. Rising food prices seemed to weigh on confidence levels, though the figure still remains relatively high.
Among market movers today was World Wrestling Entertainment (NYSE: WWE ) , which fell with a thud today, losing 43%. Investors were turned off as the professional wrestling organization announced a deal with NBCUniversal that was worth less than many expected it to be. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed but, according to Benchmark analyst Mike Hickey, revenue from NBC would increase just 50%, whereas WWE had said before that it had expected fees from the contract to double or triple. Also, WWE said that it would need to attract 1.3 million to 1.4 million subscribers to its new WWE network in order to make up for the cannibalization of its pay-per-view events. The company said the number of subscribers could vary greatly, and seemed to indicate that it expected to report a loss this year, even if it had 1 million subscribers by the end of the year.
In earnings news, Nordstrom (NYSE: JWN ) shares shot up 14.7% after it posted earnings of $0.72 a share, beating estimates of $0.68, as revenue also topped expectations, increasing 7%, to $2.93 billion versus the consensus at $2.86 billion. Comparable sales were strong, as well, moving up 3.9% during a quarter when many retailers reported weakness due to the severe winter weather. Looking ahead, its full-year forecast was in line with estimates, as its sees its EPS of $3.75-$3.90 and revenue of $13.21-$13.46 billion. Shares hit a 52-week high on the news as Nordstrom continues to outperform its sector, and an upcoming entry into Canada could lift shares even higher.
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