Stocks are seeing some strength in mid-morning trading on Tuesday, with traders shrugging off some weaker than expected economic data. Much of the buying interest comes as some traders use the sell-off seen in the previous session as an opportunity to get into the markets.
On the economic front, Standard and Poor's released its report on home prices in the month of January on Tuesday, with the report showing continued broad based declines in the prices of existing single family homes.
The report showed that the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Home Price Index for January fell 19.0 percent compared to the same month a year ago, reflecting an acceleration from a revised 18.6 percent year-over-year decline in December.
With the acceleration, the 20-city home price index fell at its fastest annual rate on record, although year-over-year data for the index only dates back to January of 2001.
Separately, activity in the Chicago-area manufacturing sector continued to contract in the month of March, according to a report released by the Institute for Supply Management - Chicago, with the index of activity in the sector showing an unexpected decrease.
The report showed that the index of activity in the sector fell to 31.4 in March from 34.2 in February, with a reading below 50 indicating a contraction in the sector. Economists had been expecting the index to edge up to a reading of 34.3.
Meanwhile, the Conference Board's consumer confidence index edged up to 26.0 in March from a record low reading of 25.3 in February, although economists had been expecting a somewhat more significant increase by the index to a reading of 28.0.
In corporate news, homebuilder Lennar Corp. (LEN) reported a wider net loss for the first quarter, hurt by lower home deliveries combined with a drop in average sale price due to low consumer confidence, increased unemployment and growing foreclosures.
The major averages have moved roughly sideways in recent trading, hovering firmly in positive territory. The Dow is currently up 95.02 at 7,617.04, the Nasdaq is up 24.34 at 1,526.14 and the S&P 500 is up 9.22 at 796.75.
Leading the advance in the broader markets are considerable gains by health insurance stocks, which have driven the Morgan Stanley Healthcare Payor Index up 4.1 percent on the day.
Within the sector, Centene Corp. (CNC) is showing one of the biggest gains, rising 4.9 percent to its best intraday level in over a month.
Banking stocks are also posting considerable gains, driving the Kbw Bank Index up 4.2 percent. Additionally, real estate and telecom stocks are also showing strength, with the Morgan Stanley REIT Index up 3.3 percent and the Amex Telecommunications Index up 2.9 percent.
At the other end of the spectrum, housing and retail stocks are suffering some of the widest losses of the session. With Lennar posting a loss of 13 percent on the day, the Philadelphia Housing Index is down 2.2 percent. Additionally, the S&P Retail Index is down 1.2 percent.
Some weakness in the transportation sector is also helping to limit the upside for the broader markets, with the Dow Jones Transportation Average down 1 percent.
Stocks Driven By Analyst Comments
Providence Service Corp. (PRSC) is posting a 6.1 percent gain on the day after being upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Sun Trust. At its high for the session, Providence Service was at its best intraday level in nearly six months.
Additionally, Alcoa (AA) is posting a gain of 9.1 percent after being upgraded to Hold from Sell at Deutsche Bank. Analysts upgraded the stock after seeing that financing fears have been pushed into 2010 following the recent equity placement.
Meanwhile, The Knot (KNOT) is down 8 percent after the company was downgraded to Hold from Buy at Stifel Nicolaus.
In overseas trading, the major stocks markets in the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance on Tuesday. While Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.9 percent, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 255 Index fell 1.5 percent.
Meanwhile, the major European markets are showing considerable strength. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is posting a gain of 3.6 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index are up 2.3 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.
In the bond market, treasuries have moved higher over the course of the morning after seeing some initial weakness. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark 10-year note is down 3.3 basis points at 2.681 percent.
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