US midday: Stocks mostly higher after upbeat data

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LONDON (ShareCast) - - Housing data beats forecasts
- Bernanke defends stimulus measures
- Markets nervous due to political uncertainty in Italy

Dow Jones Industrials: 0.57%
Nasdaq Comp.: -0.10%
S&P 500: 0.21%

US equity markets didn't join in with the sell-off seen in Europe on Tuesday after the Federal Reserve downplayed fears about stimulus measures being scaled down, though the mood was still cautious on the back of the political uncertainty seen in Italy.

Nevertheless, a raft of upbeat economic data was providing some support to stocks on Wall Street, with better-than-expected housing and consumer confidence figures lifting sentiment in morning trade in New York.

On the other side of the Pond, markets suffered steep falls (FTSE 100 (FTSE: ^FTSE - news) down 1.3%, Cac 40 (Paris: ^FCHI - news) down 2.7% and FTSE MIB (Milan: FTSEMIB.MI - news) down 4.9%) in the aftermath of the Italian elections as anti-austerity parties managed to pull in a large portion of votes, meaning that the government may struggle to pass through the reforms aimed at tackling its budget. With the country now seen by many as "ungovernable", a second election down the line is now looking likely.

Bernanke defends QE

In a testimony to the Senate Banking Committee in Washington today, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke reiterated his earlier stance by defending the central bank's asset purchase programme, saying that it would not create asset-price bubbles.

"We do not see the potential costs of the increased risk- taking in some financial markets as outweighing the benefits of promoting a stronger economic recovery. [...] Inflation is currently subdued, and inflation expectations appear well anchored."

However, he did say that the automatic budget cuts due to kick in this Friday would put a "significant" burden on the US economy if allowed to go ahead.

Economic data smashes forecasts

The S&P/Case-Shiller house-price index rose by a better-than-expected 6.8% year-on-year in December (consensus forecast: up 6.6%), the best annual gain in seven years.

New homes sales surged by 15.6% month-on-month in January (consensus: +3.0%) to 437,000, the highest level since July 2008.

Meanwhile, the Conference Board's consumer-confidence index rose to 69.6 in February, a three-month high (consensus: 62.0). The prior month's estimate was revised up from 58.4 to 58.6.

Home Depot soars after beating estimates

Home improvement retailer Home Depot was a strong riser after unveiling a 14% rise in its quarterly sales to $8.25bn, well ahead of analysts' forecasts. The company also hiked its dividend by 34% and embarked on a $17bn share buy-back programme.

Homebuilding peers PulteGroup (NYSE: PHA - news) and KB Home (NYSE: KBH - news) were also high riser after the decent housing data.

Department store giant Macy's was in demand after saying that full-year earnings per share will be $3.95, ahead of the current $3.84 forecast.



S&P 500 - Risers
Home Depot Inc. (HD) $67.64 +5.82%
PulteGroup Inc. (PHM) $18.76 +4.11%
Macy's Inc. (M) $39.71 +3.09%
Masco Corp. (MAS) $18.50 +2.72%
D. R. Horton Inc. (DHI) $21.94 +2.67%
American Tower Corp (Reit) (AMT) $75.53 +2.54%
Lennar Corp (NYSE: LEN - news) . Class A (LEN) $37.59 +2.54%
Ecolab Inc (NYSE: ECL - news) . (ECL) $74.54 +2.38%
Western Digital Corp. (WDC) $45.85 +2.32%
Lowe's Companies Inc. (LOW) $36.68 +2.29%

S&P 500 - Fallers
Tyson Foods Inc (NYSE: TSN - news) . (TSN) $21.95 -5.63%
Expeditors International Of Washington Inc (NasdaqGS: EXPD - news) . (EXPD) $38.10 -4.73%
Apollo Group Inc (NasdaqGS: APOL - news) . (APOL) $17.01 -4.60%
First Solar Inc (Xetra: A0LEKM - news) . (FSLR) $31.43 -4.00%
J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (JCP (Taiwan OTC: 4747.TWO - news) ) $20.77 -3.44%
Teradata Corp. (TDC (Other OTC: TDCAF - news) ) $60.80 -3.20%
ONEOK Inc (NYSE: OKE - news) . (OKE) $44.84 -2.95%
CF Industries Holdings Inc. (CF) $191.83 -2.75%
Advanced Micro Devices Inc (NYSE: AMD - news) . (AMD) $2.46 -2.57%
Humana Inc (NYSE: HUM - news) . (HUM) $68.11 -2.23%

Dow Jones I.A - Risers
Home Depot Inc. (HD) $67.64 +5.82%
Intel Corp. (INTC) $20.68 +2.22%
Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) $19.30 +1.23%
Bank of America Corp. (BAC) $11.16 +1.22%
AT&T Inc. (T) $35.57 +1.09%
E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. (DD) $46.89 +0.99%
General Electric Co. (GE) $23.03 +0.96%
Chevron Corp. (CVX) $114.53 +0.87%
International Business Machines Corp. (IBM (NYSE: IBM - news) ) $198.93 +0.72%
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) $70.90 +0.65%

Dow Jones I.A - Fallers
Unitedhealth Group Inc. (UNH) $52.69 -1.14%
JP Morgan Chase (Other OTC: JFTTL - news) & Co. (JPM) $47.23 -0.99%
Merck & Co. Inc (Xetra: A0YD8Q - news) . (MRK) $42.15 -0.87%
Cisco Systems Inc (NasdaqGS: CSCO - news) . (CSCO) $20.56 -0.51%
Alcoa Inc (NYSE: AA - news) . (AA) $8.39 -0.42%
American Express Co. (AXP) $61.76 -0.41%

Nasdaq 100 - Risers
Randgold Resources Ltd. Ads (GOLD) $85.57 +3.55%
Western Digital Corp. (WDC) $45.85 +2.32%
Applied Materials Inc (NasdaqGS: AMAT - news) . (AMAT) $13.53 +2.27%
Intel Corp. (INTC) $20.68 +2.22%
Altera Corp (NasdaqGS: ALTR - news) . (ALTR) $35.60 +1.69%
Sandisk Corp (NasdaqGS: SNDK - news) . (SNDK) $50.14 +1.68%
KLA-Tencor Corp. (KLAC) $53.86 +1.58%
Baidu Inc (NasdaqGS: BIDU - news) . (BIDU) $89.27 +1.43%
Cerner Corp. (CERN) $86.38 +1.17%
Seagate Technology Plc (STX (KSE: 011810.KS - news) ) $31.10 +0.84%

Nasdaq 100 - Fallers
Expeditors International Of Washington Inc. (EXPD) $38.10 -4.73%
Liberty Interactive Corp (LINTA) $20.42 -2.67%
Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. (VRTX) $43.83 -2.30%
Monster Beverage Corp (MNST) $48.63 -2.04%
Xilinx Inc (NasdaqGS: XLNX - news) . (XLNX) $36.60 -1.88%
Staples Inc (NasdaqGS: SPLS - news) . (SPLS) $13.29 -1.85%
Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD) $45.24 -1.72%
Mylan Inc (NasdaqGS: MYL - news) . (MYL) $28.03 -1.70%
CH Robinson Worldwide Inc (NasdaqGS: CHRW - news) (CHRW) $55.95 -1.45%
Facebook Inc (NasdaqGS: FB - news) . (FB) $26.89 -1.39%

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