The National Association of Home Builders today released its latest data on builder confidence, with a reading of 47 for March showing only a minimal uptick from February's 46. Builders expressed the same concerns as for why their confidence remained low: poor weather, difficulty finding ready-to-build lots, and a lack of skilled labor. Any reading of more than 50 means confidence is improving, while anything under 50 suggets the situation is deteriorating. Economists had expected the index to rise to a reading of 50 for March.
Despite the poor economic news, as of 1 p.m. EDT the major U.S. indices were all moving higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.48%) was up 173 points, or 1.08%, the S&P 500 rose 0.94%, and the Nasdaq climbed 1.04%. Let's take a look at a few individual stocks helping to push stocks upward.
Share of United Parcel Services (UPS -0.25%) were up 0.8% after the company announced late Friday that it would increase general shipping prices by 4.4% effective March 31. The price hike comes just days after FedEx announced its rate increase of 3.9%. Both companies have seen profits hit by customers shifting from their high-cost shipping services to the slower, cheaper options.
Athletic apparel company Under Armour (UAA 2.15%)was moving higher by 2.6% after its board of directors approved a two-for-one stock split. Chairman and CEO Kevin Plank said this morning the Under Armour team believes the split will broaden the investor base and help make the stock more liquid. The split will occur on April 14 and be distributed to shareholders of record on March 28. This event will not materially changing the value of Under Armour as a business. But splits often make investors excited by making it seem that shares are cheaper than they once were, giving the illusion that an investor is getting a good deal or that the stock is now a better value. Investors shouldn't use this announcement as the only reason to buy shares of the company.
Another company making changes to its stock structure is Sears Holdings (SHLDQ). Management announced that it would separate its Lands' End business from Sears Holdings. The clothing line has been a success for the company, and this moves indicates management feels breaking the two business up is the best way to derive maximum value. Sears shareholders will receive 0.300795 shares of Lands' Ends for each share of Sears they hold as of March 24. Lands' End will trade under the ticker symbol "LE" on the Nasdaq starting on March 25. Shares of Sears were up 1.1%
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