US Indexes Remain Firm Into Session's Half as Consumer Confidence Jumps; Crude Futures Above $99
Stocks are higher in mid-day trading with investor hopes growing for solutions to the European debt crisis as euro-zone finance ministers met Tuesday. Stateside, a mixed slate of data showed lingering weakness in housing prices while consumer confidence data blew past expectations.
Home prices fell in September, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city composite index, which declined 0.6%. Three cities - New York, Portland and Washington D.C. - saw gains during the month.
Also, U.S. consumers are more confident as indicated by the Conference Board report Tuesday. The consumer confidence index rose to 56 this month from 40.9 in October. Economists had expected a reading of 45 for November, according to a MarketWatch poll.
After the U.S. close Monday, Fitch Ratings issued a report in which it maintained its triple-A rating on the U.S., but lowered its outlook to negative from stable. Fitch noted declining confidence that timely fiscal measures will be forthcoming after the so-called congressional supercommittee failed to agree at least $1.2 trillion of measures to cut the federal budget deficit over the next 10 years, according to news reports.
In Europe, French newspaper La Tribune, citing unnamed sources, said ratings firm Standard & Poor's could downgrade the outlook on France's AAA sovereign debt rating to negative within 10 days. Moody's Investors Service said it may cut subordinated debt ratings on some European Union banks, because it's concerned by the increasingly limited financial flexibility of many European sovereigns, MarketWatch reported.
Commodities are higher as January gold contracts are up 0.13% to $1,717 an ounce while January crude oil contacts are up 1.1% to $99.26 a barrel.
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