RTTNews - Following a choppy trading session, stocks closed Tuesday's session on a mixed note in reaction to the day's varied earnings and economic reports. The major averages closed on opposite sides of the unchanged mark, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq posting a modest gain.

On the economic front, consumer confidence deteriorated by more than expected in the month of July, according to a report released by the Conference Board this morning. The decrease reflected less favorable assessments of both current conditions and the near-term outlook.

The Conference Board said that its consumer confidence index fell to 46.6 in July from an unrevised 49.3 in June. Economists had been expecting a much more modest decline by the index to a reading of about 49.0.

Earlier, Standard and Poor's released a separate report showing that although U.S. home prices continued to decline at a significant annual rate in the month of May, the pace of decline in prices slowed for the fourth consecutive month.

The report showed that the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Home Price Index fell at an annual rate of 17.1 percent in May compared to the 18.1 percent decrease reported for April. Economists had expected the report to show that prices fell 17.9 percent year-over-year.

On a monthly basis, S&P said that 13 of the 20 metro areas reported positive returns, contributing to the first monthly increase by the 20-city composite since the summer of 2006. The 20-city composite index rose 0.5 percent for the month.

In earnings news, Valero Energy (VLO), Amgen (AMGN) and Manitowoc (MTW) reported earnings that beat analyst estimates. On the other hand, Office Depot (ODP) fell well short of analyst forecasts.

Meanwhile, IBM Corp. (IBM) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire SPSS Inc. (SPSS). The all-cash transaction has a price of $50 per share, resulting in a total cash consideration of approximately $1.2 billion.

The major averages saw further choppy movement to close out another low volume session. While the Nasdaq closed up by 7.62 points or 0.4 percent at 1,975.51, the Dow fell by 11.79 points or 0.1 percent to 9,096.72 and the S&P 500 slipped by 2.56 points or 0.3 percent to 979.62.

Sector News

Some of the day's worst performances came from the resource sector, with gold, oil service, steel and natural gas stocks retreating by considerable margins. The weakness among resource stocks came amid a pullback in commodity prices on the NYMEX.

Utility stocks also saw considerable weakness, with the Dow Jones Utilities Average posting a loss of 2.1 percent on the day. The index continued to pull back off its best closing level in over five months reached on Friday.

While brokerage, networking and trucking stocks also retreated, health insurance and healthcare provider stocks turned in some of the day's best performances. Notably, the Morgan Stanley Healthcare Payor Index surged up by 6.5 percent, finishing at its best closing level in nearly ten months.

Airline, commercial real estate and electronic storage stocks also rose by considerable margins. The NYSE Arca Airline Index and the NYSE Arca Disk Drive Index advanced by 2.3 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively, with both the indices reaching nearly ten-month closing highs.

Dow Components

The modest loss posted by the Dow was partly due to a notable decline by shares of Pfizer (PFE), which fell by 3.6 percent. The day's retreat pulled the stock off of its best closing price in six months.

American Express (AXP) and Merck (MRK) also showed significant moves to the downside, falling by 2.5 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively. Both stocks continued their pullback off of multi-month closing highs set last Friday.

Exxon Mobil (XOM) also posted a notable loss, retreating by 1.2 percent on the session. The decline dragged the stock well off its best closing level in roughly six weeks set on Monday.

Meanwhile, Boeing (BA) ended the day sharply higher, posting a gain of 2.4 percent. Despite the strong upward move, the stock remains stuck in a recent trading range.

Bank of America (BAC) and General Electric (GE) also rose, although by more modest margins. The stocks were also unable to break out of their recent trading ranges.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region finished largely on the upside on Tuesday. Australia's All Ordinaries Index and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index posted gains of 1.5 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively, although Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed little changed.

Meanwhile, the major European markets closed firmly on the downside, with the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index finishing down by 1.5 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index slipped by 1.3 percent.

In the bond markets, treasuries turned in a mixed performance on Tuesday after seeing considerable volatility following the release of the results of an auction of two-year notes as well as the disappointing news on consumer confidence.

The benchmark ten-year note ended the day modestly higher, pushing the yield on the note down 2.5 basis points to 3.688 percent. While the thirty-year bond also ended the day in positive territory, the two-year note and the five-year note both finished lower.

Looking Ahead

Aside from earnings reports from Time Warner (TWX), Sprint Nextel (S), Qwest (Q) and ConocoPhillips (COP), traders will also look to June durable goods orders data from the Commerce Department on Wednesday. Orders are expected to decline by 0.6 percent after rising by 1.8 percent in May. The data is set to be released at 8:30 a.m. ET.

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