U.S. equity markets were rising Monday on better than expected news for sales of existing homes, but other news on the day wasn't quite as good.

Home sales improved 6.5% in December as prices dropped the most on record, and inventories declined sharply as lower prices spurred interest. Resale's averaged 4.91 million in 2008, down 13% from 2007 and the fewest in 11 years. The Conference Board said its index of leading U.S. economic indicators rose 0.3% in December, the first gain in six months.

Meanwhile, Caterpillar, Home Depot and ING were among several firms announcing over 60,000 job cutbacks. Caterpillar, the world's largest maker of construction equipment, said its cutting 20,000 jobs or about 20% of its workforce after fourth-quarter profit fell by almost a third.

Firms are each cutting thousands of jobs. These are not just numbers on a page, Obama said today at the White House. We cannot afford distractions, we cannot afford delays in getting legislation to boost the economy through Congress.

In recent trade, the DOW was moving higher by 1.2% and the S&P 500 by 1.63%. Both indexes were about 1% below their highs of the day. The NASDAQ was up 1.61%. The dollar was trading lower against the higher-yielding currencies as traders moved into riskier positions, with a 1.26% loss to the pound, a 1.06% decline against Australia's dollar and a 1.49% decline to Europe's single currency. As typical when stocks rise the greenback was moving higher against the yen, gaining 0.51% on the day. Crude for March delivery was recently trading up $1.28 (2.69%) to $47.80 per barrel. February gold was extending its recent run with a gain of $9 (1.01%) to $904.30 per ounce.