Stocks Broadly Higher on Positive Consumer Confidence Data, Corporate Earnings

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Stocks are rallying, with all three major indexes up near 1% and touching 2011 highs, on rising consumer confidence in April coupled with upbeat earnings from Ford Motor Co. ( F ) and economic bellwether UPS ( UPS ). But skidding home prices may be tempering gains ahead of the Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting.

Prices for residential real estate fell 3.3% in February from the same month last year, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values. The decline matched estimates according to a Bloomberg news survey, but are testing lows set in 2009.

In contrast, confidence among consumers in the US grew in April. The Conference Board reported that its consumer confidence index rose to 65.4 in April compared to the upwardly revised 63.8 reading last month. It also topped economists' estimates.

Among big-name companies reporting earnings, Ford ( F ) is up 2.8% after reporting Q1 pre-tax EPS of $0.61 compared to $0.50 last year, and finishing ahead of the Street's call for $0.50. Revenue was $33.1 billion, up $5 billion from Q1 2010. The Street was looking for $29.7 billion.

Meanwhile, shares of Coca-Cola ( KO ) are down after the beverage maker said Q1 reported EPS were $0.82, or $0.86 less items. The Thomson Reuters mean was for $0.87. Sales were $10.517 billion, versus forecasts for $10.57078 billion.

In company news:

Cepheid ( CPHD ) says it received clearance from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to market Xpert Flu. The diagnostic test, which runs on CPHD's GeneXpert System, simultaneously detects and differentiates Influenza A, Influenza B, and the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus in about one hour, it says.

Oracle ( ORCL ) said that President Safra Catz will assume the additional responsibility of Chief Financial Officer. Catz's appointment follows the resignation of the company's current CFO, Jeff Epstein. Catz's appointment is permanent and is effective immediately. Safra Catz joined Oracle Corporation in April 1999 and has been President since January 2004.

Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY) today announced that it has signed a collaboration with Medtronic (MDT) to research and develop a new approach to treating Parkinson's disease, involving the delivery of a potential new medicine to the brain using an implantable drug delivery system.

Shares of International Business Machines (IBM) are higher as the company said its board raised the company's quarterly dividend 15% to $0.75 from $0.65 in the prior quarter. The board also authorized an added $8 billion for the company's stock repurchase program.

Shares of MetLife (MET) are higher as Bloomberg reports that the US life insurer was subpoenaed by regulators in California who are reviewing whether the company failed to pay life insurance benefits to named beneficiaries. California is widening an investigation into whether life insurers withheld mony that was owed to beneficiaries or the state, the report said.

In earnings news:

--Valero Energy (VLO) reported Q1 EPS from continuing operations of $0.18 compared to a loss of $0.14 in the year ago quarter and the Street view for $0.30, if comparable. Revenue expanded to $26.3 billion from $18.5 billion a year earlier. The Street looked for $22.3 billion.

--Delta Air Lines (DAL) reports a Q1 loss of $0.38, including items such as a 30% jump in fuel prices. Results are down from the prior year's quarter. Revenue was up 13% to $7.7 billion.

--Wilshire Bancorp (WIBC) says it swung to a net loss of $1.77 per share in Q1 from a year ago. The mean estimate at Thomson Reuters, less items, was a loss of $0.04.

--Lexmark (LXK) shares are down sharply after the company said Q1 net income fell to $1.04 per share, from $1.20 a year earlier. Revenue fell 0.8% to $1.03 billion. Analysts were expecting revenue of $1.05 billion, according to Thomson-Reuters.

Commodities are down. June gold contracts are down 0.68%, to $1,499 an ounce while May crude oil contacts are down 0.13% to $112.13 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is flat at $44.53 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down 0.17%, to $11.42.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is down 0.5% at $146.14. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 1.62% to $60.19. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is down 4.04% to $43.89.



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.

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This article appears in: Investing , Commodities

Referenced Stocks: CPHD , F , KO , ORCL , UPS

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