Gold and bonds surged on Tuesday and U.S. stocks rebounded in choppy trade as a recovery in risk appetite among some investors was countered by bearish economic news.
U.S. consumer confidence hit a two-year low in August and prices of single-family homes dipped in June from May as the U.S. housing market continued to crawl along at depressed levels, data showed on Tuesday.
Stocks on Wall Street initially fell as much as 1 percent. Gold jumped 2 percent and U.S. Treasuries hit session peaks as investors piled into safe-havens due to worries about the economy.
Minutes from a Federal Reserve meeting this month, also released on Tuesday, showed the central bank had considered a range of actions to help a struggling economy, including the unprecedented step of tying the interest rate policy outlook to a specific unemployment level.
By mid-afternoon, the stock market had eased part of its early loss, helped somewhat by the previous session's rally and the premise that the market may have been oversold through most of this month. Despite a weekend hurricane in the New York City region that hampered commuting, the S&P 500 index of U.S. stocks closed up more than 2 percent on Monday.
Thin volume also resulted in a lack of committed sellers.
It looks like we're having some follow-through to yesterday's move, which is an indication things have gotten overdone in the past month. People are reassessing and seeing some value, said John Derrick, director of research with U.S. Global Investors in San Antonio, Texas.
By 2:20 p.m. EDT, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 19.79 points, or 0.17 percent, at 11,559.04. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 1.62 points, or 0.13 percent, at 1,211.70. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 10.48 points, or 0.41 percent, at 2,572.59.
GOLD, BONDS SHINE; EURO DOWN
Spot gold, which tracks trading in bullion, was up 2 percent, reaching nearly $1,833 an ounce.
The market is certainly pretty nervy as are most markets right now, so in the context of what's been happening in the last few days, I'm not surprised to see that kind of move, said Credit Suisse precious metals analyst Tom Kendall.
Bullion is up nearly 30 percent on the year. One of the cornerstones of its rally over the last eight months has been the Fed's ultra-loose monetary policy, which included a pledge to leave rates near zero until 2012 after a $600 billion bond-buying program that expired in June.
Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes touched a session high of 99-21/32, up 28/32 from late Monday, after the consumer confidence data. By 1822 GMT, the 10-year note was up 24/32, with the yield at 2.1776 percent.
Analysts said the Fed's Aug. 9 meeting minutes, due for release Tuesday; a planned speech next week by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and developments in euro zone debt will all be closely watched by investors losing faith in the global economy's ability to stave off another slowdown.
The euro was down 0.6 percent at $1.4420, retreating from a two-month high of $1.4550 on Monday.
Peripheral debt worries continued to haunt the euro zone. Reuters on Monday reported detailed proposals put forward by Finland regarding its demand for collateral in return for providing more aid to Greece.
Finland's demands for collateral have sparked requests from countries including Austria, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Slovakia for similar treatment and could jeopardize euro zone attempts to save Athens from default.
We're getting a bit of noise about what the euro zone is up to, what it's not up to and what it should be up to, said Geoffrey Yu, currency strategist at UBS.
It's getting so convoluted, all the demands from smaller states like Finland, Austria, Slovakia ... If this is going to be the case for a while to come, people are going to be concerned that the crisis is going to drag on.