Midday Update: Stocks In Holding Pattern With Modest Gains Ahead of FOMC Conclusion

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Stocks are posting respectable gains, underpinned by strong housing market data coupled with a growing Wall Street consensus the Federal Reserve will keep its $85 billion per month asset purchase program in place. While the modest gains suggest traders are confident the Fed will vote to maintain the flow of liquidity into the financial markets, there also is little incentive for them to make any aggressive bets before the 2 p.m. ET announcement, resulting in the three major market indices flat-lining at their current levels.

Homebuilders reported another banner month, with housing starts climbing to a five-year high during November and a 1.091 million annualized pace. Permits were equally robust, increasing to an annualized 1.007 million. And while the strong data typically would send the financial markets reeling, given its implication on Fed policy, investors instead are responding favorably to signs the U.S. economy is enjoying a more sustained recovery.

European equities also got a shot in the arm from bullish economic data after the UK reported its jobless rate slid to a four-year low of 7.4% and German business expectations continued to improve. All of the major European bourses closed higher, although like the North American markets, the gains were limited ahead of the conclusion of today's Federal Open Markets Committee meeting.

Crude oil was up $0.36 to $97.59 per barrel. Natural gas was up $0.01 to $4.29 per 1 million BTU. Gold was up $1.20 to $1,231.60 an ounce, while silver was up $0.14 to $19.98 an ounce. Copper was unchanged at $3.32 per pound.

Among energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund was up 0.63% to $35.08 with the United States Natural Gas Fund was up 0.14% to $20.92. Amongst precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF was up 0.59% to 21.32 while SPDR Gold Shares were up 0.15% to $118.83. The iShares Silver Trust was up 0.47% to $19.23.

Here's where the markets stand at mid-day:

NYSE Composite Index up 24.02 (+0.24%) to 10013.10

Dow Jones Industrial Average up 20.24 (+0.13%) to 15895.50

S&P 500 down 1.71 (-0.10%) to 1779.29

Nasdaq Composite Index down 19.18 (-0.48%) to 4004.50

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

Nikkei 225 Index up 2.02%

Hang Seng Index up 0.32%

Shanghai China Composite Index down 0.13%

FTSE 100 Index up 0.09%

CAC 40 up 1.00%

DAX up 1.06%

NYSE SECTOR INDICES

NYSE Energy Sector Index up 0.35%

NYSE Financial Sector Index up 0.31%

NYSE Healthcare Sector Index up 0.40%

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) VCI, (+21.3%) Agrees to be acquired and taken private by Harland Clarke Holdings for $1.84 billion.

(+) DEPO, (+9.8%) Acquires U.S. rights to Nautilus Neurosciences' ( NLS ) Cambia non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for $48.7 million..

(+) ZAGG, (+5.1%) Joins the Samsung Mobile Accessory Partnership Program.

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) TWGP, (-27.2%) The company boosts loss reserves, sell its 11% stake in Canopius and was downgraded by Compass Point.

(-) JBL (-21.4%) Issues guidance for its quarter ending in February coming in well below expectations due to lackluster demand for Apple's ( AAPL ) iPhone 5c, for which the company makes casings.

(-) OPXA (-10.9%) Announces plans to sell 4.12 million shares at discounted $1.70 per share.



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.

Copyright (C) 2014 MTNewswires.com. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited.


This article appears in: Investing , Commodities

Referenced Stocks: AAPL , NLS

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