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After The Close - Wall Street liked what it heard today, in terms of generally upbeat economic data, sending stocks nicely higher. At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had gained 112 points and the NASDAQ was up 17 points. The broader market was clearly biased to the upside, with the number of advancing issues outpacing decliners by more than a two-to-one margin on the New York Stock Exchange.

Investors seemed to put the latest flare-up of Europe’s financial woes in the back of their minds, too. The difficulties in Cyprus and what they could mean for the rest of the euro zone are at least temporarily on the back burner, although they could resurface later on. The recent weakness of the region’s currency, the euro, underscores the concern traders have about prospects for the European Union’s future in general.

But, for the just-ended session, the rally that has lifted the Dow to record heights resumed on the strength of rising home prices and a pickup in durable-goods orders. New-home sales also rose nicely from a year earlier. A slip in a consumer confidence reading was the only downbeat note struck by the economic data, and that was outweighed by the positives elsewhere.

At the sector level, the consumer staples group led the pack, with shares of Coca-Cola (KO - Free Coca-Cola Stock Report) and PepsiCo (PEP) posting solid advances. Energy stocks, such as Valero Energy (VLO) also had a good day. The healthcare sector had its share of winners, too, including shares of drug maker Merck (MRK - Free Merck Stock Report). 

At the corporate level, shares of Boeing (BA - Free Boeing Stock Report) perked up on word that it had launched a successful test flight of its 787 "Dreamliner" jet aircraft. The shares had been held back on concerns over problems with the plane’s batteries.

Tomorrow brings a light day in terms of economic news. A lone report on pending home sales is due out at 10:00 a.m. EDT. There are a few fiscal-year companies of note reporting profits on Wednesday. Those include payroll processor Paychex (PAYX), apparel designer and marketer PVH (PVH; formerly Phillips-Van Heusen), and software maker Red Hat (RHT). Positive comparisons are expected across the board.

Earnings season gets going in a big way in a couple of weeks, and will be another hurdle for investors to clear. Essentially, a repeat of what occurred when fourth-quarter 2012 results were reported in January and February is thought to be on tap, where companies largely topped subdued expectations.   - Robert Mitkowski   

At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned. 

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12:30 PM EST - The bulls appear to be back in charge on Wall Street as trading reaches the noon hour. The major U.S. equity indexes are all solidly in the black for the session so far, largely on the back of favorable economic releases. Specifically, prices for single-family homes in January rose at their fastest pace in over six years. Also on the positive side of the ledger, the Commerce Department’s February report on durable goods orders jumped by 5.7% in February, largely driven by improved demand for transportation equipment. These gains were a sharp turnaround from the 3.8% drop in orders incurred the previous month, and well ahead of consensus expectations for a 3.8% advance in February.

These favorable reports indicating further improvement in the U.S. economy outweighed lingering concerns over goings on in the euro zone, as we’ll see shortly. Overall, the largely blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average is leading the way today, rising 90 points or just over half a percent. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 is not far behind. Its half-percentage point gain at mid-day places it just shy of its all-time high. The tech-laden NASDAQ is also participating, though with a slightly more modest showing to the upside.

Over across the Atlantic, market action is a bit less certain on the European bourses. Notably, the drama over the troubled Cypriot banks continues to evolve. A $13 billion bailout plan was hammered out over the weekend to avoid a sovereign-debt default for that tiny country, but banks are being kept closed until Thursday. The associated austerity measures have understandably met with resistance, most recently prompting protests in the Cypriot capital, Nicosia. Meanwhile, it was recently announced that Greece’s Piraeus Bank will buy the operations of Cypriot banks in Greece for 524 million euros, allowing those branches to reopen on Wednesday. The primary fear is that the proposed tax on depositor funds will be used as a template to rescue other troubled nations, but initial indications suggest this will likely be a one-off occurrence.

Trading on the European markets was a bit mixed, though generally positive as they headed toward the close of their sessions, mostly buoyed by positive news on the U.S. front. France’s CAC 40 was up .7% at noon New York time, with London’s FTSE 100 not far behind with about a third of a percentage gain. Germany’s DAX, meanwhile had settled back to around the unchanged mark after spending most of the session in positive territory. -Mario Ferro

At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.

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Stocks to Watch from The Survey Corporate news is rather light this morning, and trading volumes may well be lower than normal, as some investors take a break from the markets to celebrate Passover. On the earnings front, shares of The Children’s Place (PLCE) are indicating a notably lower opening this morning, after the specialty retailer of kids’ apparel and accessories released January-period results and issued disappointing guidance. Restaurant operator Sonic Corp. (SONC) fared better, and investors have bid that stock up nicely in pre-market trading on earnings news. Elsewhere, Yahoo! (YHOO) shares are trading slightly higher in the premarket, after the Internet company purchased privately-held Summly, a newsreader application for mobile phones, for an undisclosed sum. – Matthew E. Spencer

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.

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Before The Bell - The U.S. equity market started the holiday-shortened trading week in the negative territory, as renewed concerns about the sovereign-debt problems in the euro zone weighed on trading both here and overseas yesterday. While the investment community initially cheered that Cyprus had reached a deal to avoid defaulting on its debt obligations, the optimism quickly gave way to concerns that the tough austerity measures put in place by Cypriot government officials may be used as a model for the larger struggling euro-zone nations. Worries about Italy’s lack of leadership following inclusive elections last month also pressured the European bourses. On the homeland, the major U.S. indexes finished modestly lower, with declining stocks outpacing advancers on both the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ.

There was no place for investors to hide during yesterday’s session, with each of the 10 major sectors finishing in the red. Those areas most closely tied to the performance of the global economy were the biggest laggards, with stocks in the basic materials, financial, and industrial sectors taking the biggest hits. Those same sectors should be closely watched again today, as we will receive three important reports on the U.S. economy this morning (more below).

Elsewhere, trading overseas has been mixed thus far today. Overnight, Asia’s main indexes finished with varied results, while the major European bourses, after a mixed start to the trading day, enter the second day of trading this week on the Continent with modest gains. As has been the case in recent days, the investment community’s attention is on Cyprus. Earlier today, Cypriot officials said that the country’s banks will remain closed until Thursday and even then they will remain subject to capital controls to prevent a run on deposits. Just days ago, Cyprus agreed to the European Union’s bailout plan of 10-billion euro ($13 billion), which carried harsh austerity measures, but was to avoid a sovereign-debt default that would likely lead to substantial financial and economic problems for that nation and the rest of the euro zone. Cyprus’ problems have been a major headwind for the European equity market in recent trading sessions.

As noted, it will be a very busy day for the U.S. economy, which just minutes ago received a mixed report on durable goods orders. Specifically, that metric jumped 5.7% in February, boosted by a surge in demand for large commercial jets. The consensus called for an overall gain of 4.6%. Commercial aircraft orders, a typically volatile category, soared 95.3% in February after a 24% plunge in the prior month. Shipments of core capital goods, a category used to calculate quarterly economic growth, rose 1.9% in February. However, when excluding the transportation component, orders fell 0.5%. Too, orders for core capital goods, a key indicator of private-sector business investment, dropped 2.7% in February after a 6.7% increase in January; its largest decrease since July. The last data were a bit troublesome, but all in all it was a decent report.

With less than an hour to go before trading commences on these shores, the S&P and NASDAQ equity futures are pointing to a higher opening for the U.S. market. Our sense is that in order for the bulls to reverse yesterday’s negative tone to trading, they will need some more supportive data on new home sales and consumer confidence later this morning. The situation in the euro zone is also likely to have a hand in today’s equity market performance. Stay tuned. – William G. Ferguson

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.