Midday Update: Bullish Data Lifting Equities Near Record Levels; Chip-Makers, Biotech Leading Nasdaq Composite Higher
Strong housing and consumer confidence data gave Wall Street a shot in the arm Tuesday, driving equity prices modestly higher. The S&P 500 and the Dow Industrials Average were again flirting with new record highs but the Nasdaq Composite index was enjoying commanding gains, thanks to gains among biotech and chip-maker stocks following better-than-expected earnings results by Micron Technology ( MU ) today.
The first round of data contributed to the defensive, pre-market tone, with the Federal Housing and Finance Authority index of home prices staying unchanged during April from March levels and lagging Wall Street expectations for a 0.5% monthly gain. The S&P/Case-Shiller index of housing prices in 20 U.S. cities rose just 0.2%, missing forecasts for an 0.8% seasonally-adjusted gain.
But stocks soon rebounded following new data showing home sales rising to a six-year high during May, also picking up support from a rise in consumer confidence this month. Home sales jumped 18.5% last month to a 504,000 annualized pace while consumer confidence improved to a final 85.2 reading for June from a downwardly revised 82.2 reading in May.
Of less significance today was a sharp decline in the Richmond Fed manufacturing index to a 3.0 reading in June from a 7.0 score during May.
Most European equities trended higher in tandem with the U.S. markets, but the FTSE closed marginally lower as traders responded to conflicting comments regarding UK interest rates from Bank of England Governor Mark Carney. Recently, Carney has been alluding to further rate hikes, but last night threw cold water on growth prospects when he remarked that sluggish UK wage growth could ultimately hamper the UK economy. In addition, housing stocks were undermined by impending proposals by the BOE to cool the housing market, which has been evidenced by slower mortgage lending.
Crude oil was up $0.13 to $106.30 per barrel. Natural gas was up $0.05 to $4.51 per 1 million BTU. Gold was up $1.70 to $1,320.10 an ounce, while silver was up $0.07 to $21.04 an ounce. Copper was unchanged at $3.15 per pound.
Among energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund was up 0.14% to $39.22 with the United States Natural Gas Fund was up 1.09% to $24.96. Amongst precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF was down 1.20% to 26.02 while SPDR Gold Shares was up 0.09% to $126.96. The iShares Silver Trust was up 0.60% to $20.17.
Here's where the U.S. markets stand at mid-day:
NYSE Composite Index down 3.86 (-0.04%) to 11,010.23
Dow Jones Industrial Average up 3.01 (+0.02%) to 16,940.27
S&P 500 up 3.57 (+0.18%) to 1,966.18
Nasdaq Composite Index up 30.11 (+0.69%) to 4,398.78
Nikkei 225 Index up 0.05%
Hang Seng Index up 0.33%
Shanghai China Composite Index up 0.47%
FTSE 100 Index down 0.20%
CAC 40 up 0.06%
DAX up 0.17%
NYSE SECTOR INDICES
NYSE Energy Sector Index down 0.09%
NYSE Financial Sector Index down 0.03%
NYSE Healthcare Sector Index up 0.03%
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