Stocks are trading higher at mid-day after stronger-than-expected economic data lifted spirits in what is shaping up to be another thinly traded session.
The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago's index of Midwest business activity was higher than expected in December, up at 62.5 against an expected 61, and pending sales of existing homes surged 7.3% to 100.1 in November, offering more signs of a tentative housing recovery.
Over in Europe, encouraging bond auction results out of Italy boosted sentiment somewhat; the country sold another round of government bonds Thursday, with yields falling for 2014 and 2022 debt, news reports said.
Italy raised a total of around 7 billion euros ($9 billion) of various bonds. The government had planned to raise between 5 billion and 8.5 billion euros, MarketWatch reported.
Italy paid a yield of 5.62% to sell new three-year debt, down sharply from 7.89% in an auction last month, Reuters reported, while 10-year bonds were sold at a yield of 6.98%, down from 7.56% in a late November auction.
In company news:
Yahoo ( YHOO ) is up 1.7% at $16.05 a share on reports Alibaba.com's efforts to buy the company are moving forward. China's Alibaba.com has hired Washington lobbying firm Duberstein Group Inc. as it seeks a deal with Yahoo, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing a filing. Japan's Softbank Corp. is also listed as an Alibaba affiliate in the lobbying firm's disclosure, according to the filing, Reuters reported.
JA Solar ( JASO ) is up 4.6% after it said it entered into an agreement with Solarhybrid AG, a Germany-based project developer and general contractor for utility-scale solar power projects, to supply 19 MW of solar modules to Solarhybrid's Allstedt I solar power plant in Halle, Germany. JA Solar is the exclusive solar module supplier to the project.
Commodities are lower. February gold contracts are down $31.40 to $1,532.70 an ounce, while February crude oil contracts are down $0.70 to $98.66 a barrel.
In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust ( GLD ) is down 1.1% to $149.34. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 0.54% to $50.32. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is little changed.
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