The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is up slightly after existing-home sales came in below expectations but still relatively strong. As of 1:10 p.m. EST, the Dow is up 36 points, or 0.26%, to 13,685. The S&P 500 is up just two points to 1,488.
There was just one economic release this morning, when the National Association of Realtors announced that existing-home sales fell to a seasonally adjusted and annualized 4.94 million in December. That's down from November's 4.99 million and below analyst expectations of 5.13 million. While slightly below expectations, it's still a relatively high level and almost 13% above last year's level. Home sales have been buoyed by a lack of inventory, as well as extremely low mortgage rates.
The other big news item of the day came from the Bank of Japan, which decided to adopt a new inflation target of 2% and new quantitative-easing measures to stimulate the economy. Japan has suffered from 20 years of deflation, i.e., falling prices. Deflation is a big problem, as it encourages individuals to hold cash rather than spend it, leading to a continuously weakening economy. Japan has tried stimulus measures before, but it always terminates them before they can turn the country around.
Today's Dow leader
Today's Dow leader is Travelers (NYSE:TRV), up 2.9% to $78.50. Travelers is a property insurance company whose results fluctuate with the frequency of natural disasters. With Hurricane Sandy hitting the East Coast hard last quarter, analysts were expecting terrible earnings from the company. However, while Travelers' profits dropped 51%, the company reported earnings per share of $0.72, beating analyst expectations of $0.12 per share. Revenue was $6.5 billion versus analyst estimates of $6.3 billion.