Mid-Day Update: Stocks Hover Near Unchanged As Wall Street Digests Soft Housing Data, Upbeat Consumer Confidence and Fed's Powell
US stocks were struggling for direction on Tuesday, clinging to their opening levels as Wall Street digested mixed housing market data, upbeat consumer confidence and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's formulaic testimony to the Senate Banking Committee. Powell delivered few surprises and continued to endorse patient monetary policy in the face of increased economic headwinds.
Weighed at the open by escalating geopolitical tensions between India and Pakistan, fading trade euphoria and realization Powell's testimony would likely deliver few dovish surprises, the Dow Jones Industrial Average opened lowered, led by losses in Caterpillar ( CAT ) after the stock was downgraded at UBS to sell from buy.
December data painted a conflicting picture of the US housing market with price gains slowing and new construction starts falling by more than 11%. Permits, however, surprised with a 0.4% increase to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.326 million.
The major averages were launched into positive territory -- albeit briefly -- by a much better-than-expected improvement in consumer confidence. The Conference Board index jumped to 131.4 from an upwardly revised 121.7 in January. This followed an equally surprising surge in the Richmond Fed manufacturing index to 16 in February from negative 2 the month prior, more than 5 times above the 3.0 estimates.
In his semi-annual testimony to Congress, Fed chairman Powell warned productivity growth has been low and economic growth will be "somewhat slower" this year as Brexit and trade issues create global uncertainties. These factors, however, will continue to encourage patience from the Fed with inflationary pressures muted by lower gas prices.
Crude oil was up $0.38 to $55.86 per barrel. Natural gas was unchanged at $2.84 per 1 million BTU. Gold was down $2.00 to $1,327.50 an ounce, while silver was down $0.003 to $15.92 an ounce. Copper was up $0.006 to $2.95 per pound.
Among energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund was up 0.69% to $11.65 with the United States Natural Gas Fund down 0.24% to $24.71. Amongst precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF was down 0.97% to 22.59 while SPDR Gold Shares were down 0.13% to $125.21. The iShares Silver Trust was down 0.03% to $14.90.
Here's where the markets stand at mid-day:
NYSE Composite Index was up 7.81 points (+0.06%) to 12,708.00
Dow Jones Industrial Index was down 19.01 points (-0.07%) to 26,072.94
S&P 500 was up 1.25 points (+0.04%) to 2,797.36
Nasdaq Composite Index was down 10.10 points (-0.13%) to 7,544.36
FTSE 100 was down 32.62 points (-0.45%) to 7,151.12
DAX was up 35.40 points (+0.31%) to 11,540.79
CAC 40 was up 6.87 points (+0.13%) to 5,238.72
Nikkei 225 was down 78.84 points (-0.37%) to 21,449.39
Hang Seng Index was down 187.24 points (-0.65%) to 28,772.06
Shanghai China Composite Index was down 19.77 points (-0.67%) to 2,941.52
NYSE SECTOR INDICES
NYSE Energy Sector Index was up 13.02 points (+0.12%) to 10,637.27
NYSE Financial Sector Index was up 14.41 points (+0.19%) to 7,785.96
NYSE Healthcare Sector Index was down 21.29 points (-0.15%) to 16,047.21
(+) FTNW (+125.69%) Won $116 mln of contracts during Jan and Feb
(+) TLRA (+34.25%) Reported better-than-expected Q4 results
(+) VSI (+25.57%) Beat Q4 EPS, revenue estimates, announced deal with NEXCOM
(-) STKL (-41.34%) Missed Q4 EPS estimates, announced termination of CEO
(-) NVCN (-28.86%) Priced public offering at 28% discount
(-) NLS (-21.87%) Downgraded at Craig Hallum to hold from buy
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