Two days after international concerns pushed markets sharply lower, investors continue to focus on U.S. economic data as their reason for renewed optimism. This morning's favorable reports helped support the market, including news that pending home sales rose 4.5% in January and hit nearly three-year highs, while durable-goods order rose 1.9%, excluding transportation. Yet analysts are looking closely at another appearance by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke this morning as a potential market-moving event. As of 10:45 a.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) are up 82 points, with broader markets also up by 0.6% or more.
Among Dow stocks, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) posted the biggest advance, rising more than 1.9% on news that it would cut 17,000 jobs by the end of next year, largely from the mortgage-servicing and retail-banking areas. The cuts are part of a larger move to reduce expenses by $1 billion this year, even as CEO Jamie Dimon has faced calls to give up part of his dual role as chairman and CEO. With Dimon saying that banks have more capital than they need, the big challenge ahead is how they can make use of it without hurting profits.
In earnings news, First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) plunged 17% after announcing quarterly results. Although the company beat earnings estimates, it said its backlog of "expected revenue" for 2012 had fallen by $1.4 billion during the year, raising concerns that slowing sales could end the recent rebound for the solar industry. Although reductions in capacity have helped First Solar avoid the full impact of falling panel prices, the company needs a steady stream of new projects in order to sustain its business model.
Finally, Tempur-Pedic (NYSE:TPX) soared more than 8% on a report from KeyBanc saying that sales of mattresses grew faster during January. Earlier in the week, the company gave a status report on its planned acquisition of Sealy (NYSE: ZZ), which it hopes to close next month so long as the merger gets approval from the Federal Trade Commission. Tempur-Pedic's stock has been volatile ever since it missed growth projections early last year, but a rebounding housing market has positive implications for the company going forward.