COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

S&P 500 rebounds for record on housing, durable-goods data

A series of positive economic reports caused stock prices to rise Tuesday, looking beyond the continued uncertainty coming out of the European Union.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 111.90 points to 14,559.65, a new all-time high. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 17.18 points to 3,252.48 and the S&P 500 Stock Index rose 12.08 points to 1,563.77, just a fraction away from its record close in October 2007.

The markets reacted to a big increase in durable goods orders in February as a result of a surge in aircraft orders. And home prices rose by 8.1 percent in January, the biggest year-over-year increase since June 2008.

Oil continued its recent march higher, up $1.53 to $96.34 a barrel Gold, however, fell $8.80 to $1,595.70 an ounce.

“The data continues to be pretty good out of the U.S., even though we had some bad news out of Europe over the past few days,” said Paul Zemsky, N.Y.-based head of asset allocation for ING Investment Management, which oversees $170 billion. “Housing is a huge part of the economic recovery story and if housing prices rise, people feel better about their homes and generally more confident.”

Consumer confidence slumped more than forecast this month as Washington’s budget battle soured Americans’ views of the economic outlook. The consumer confidence index dropped to 59.7 from a revised three-month high of 68 in February, data from the N.Y.-based Conference Board showed Tuesday. New-home sales declined 4.6 percent, worse than the 3.9 percent median estimate, another report showed.

“We like to see what consumers do rather than what they say,” said Brad Sorensen, director of market and sector analysis at Charles Schwab Corp. (NYSE: SCHW). The San Francisco-based firm has $2.04 trillion in client assets. “They may say they’re less confident, but does that translate into their spending? So far we haven’t seen that. Retail sales have held up pretty well.”

Health-care companies, energy and utility shares advanced the most, adding at least 1 percent. Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) rose 2.9 percent to $21.77 and Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) jumped 2.3 percent to $23.64, for the biggest gains in the Dow. American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP) climbed 1.6 percent to a record $67.17, while Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) added 1.6 percent to $28.60, the highest level since 2005.

Monsanto Co. (NYSE: MON) rallied 4.4 percent to $103.79. The company will dismiss its claim that DuPont Co. (NYSE: DD) infringed patents for Roundup Ready soybeans, setting aside a $1 billion jury award, and DuPont will dismiss its claim that Monsanto uses monopoly power to stifle innovation, the companies said in a joint statement. The world’s largest seed companies also agreed to enter into licensing agreements for making genetically modified crops. DuPont fell 0.3 percent to $48.97.

Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) surged 5.4 percent, the most in the S&P 500, to $190.61. Pacific Crest raised its price target on the company to $225 from its previous estimate of $160, writing in a note that “Netflix is the future of non-live video.”

Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) jumped 2.1 percent to $86.62. The Chicago-based company won a U.S. appeals court ruling affirming the dismissal of an investor lawsuit accusing company officials of making misleading public statements about the readiness of its 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

The Gap Inc. (NYSE: GPS) lost 2.7 percent to $35.03 and Macy’s Inc. (NYSE: M) slumped 0.9 percent to $41.99. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE: ANF) slid 1.5 percent to $45.69.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

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