Standing firmly behind the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing initiatives, Chairman Ben Bernanke quieted speculation that the central bank was taking it easy on bond-buying initiatives anytime soon. Big Ben's soothing tone, combined with news that new-home sales reached nearly five-year highs in January, sent markets skyward. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) gained 115 points, or 0.84%, to close at 13,900.
A propitious combination of the good housing data and impressive quarterly results fueled Home Depot (NYSE:HD) today, sparking a 5.7% jump. Not only were fourth-quarter earnings boosted by spending on Hurricane Sandy-related repairs, but management announced it would both boost its dividend and buy back stock. The home-improvement retailer benefited from a flurry of great news on Tuesday to lead the Dow.
But the aspiring tech turnaround Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) also stood out today, rocketing 3.9% higher on news that its HP Slate 7-inch tablet will run Google's Android OS. Android is, putting it lightly, a bit more proven than HP's own OS (called WebOS), which the company tried putting on the HP TouchPad to disastrous results. No blue-chip stock really stood out as an underperformer today; the biggest laggard was UnitedHealth Group, and it dropped a meager 0.5%.
Shares of priceline.com (NASDAQ:BKNG) added 1% today before surging as much as 5% after hours following its quarterly report. Profits were higher than expected, benefiting from success in European and Asian markets. International bookings were up 40% year over year, coming in at $5.5 billion.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) also had a good day on Tuesday, rising 1.4% on speculation that the company might split the stock, which currently trades for nearly $450 per share. The last time the Cupertino tech giant split its stock was eight years ago, in Feb. 2005. The company is trying to reignite interest in its shares, which have fallen more than 35% from their 52-week highs of nearly $700 this past September. CEO Tim Cook's philosophy with Apple's cash hoard is a bit different from that of iconic founder Steve Jobs. For instance, Apple announced its first quarterly dividend since 1995 less than a year ago.
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