Business News

Stocks jump after home prices, confidence surge

by Patrick Flanagan

NEW YORK (AP) - A rally that that brought the stock market to record highs this year came back to life after U.S. home prices rose the most in seven years and consumer confidence reached a five-year high.

NEW YORK (AP) - A rally that that brought the stock market to record highs this year came back to life after U.S. home prices rose the most in seven years and consumer confidence reached a five-year high.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 120 points in afternoon trading Tuesday, bouncing back from a loss the week before.

"They say the stock market tends to lead the economy. Now we're starting to see the improvement on the economic front, so there's some justification for this rally," said Ryan Detrick, a senior technical strategist at Schaeffer's investment research.

As stocks climbed, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note jumped to 2.14 percent, its highest level since April 2012, as investors moved money out of safe assets and into riskier ones like stocks. That's a big jump from Friday's level of 2.01 percent. Markets were closed Monday for Memorial Day.

The stock market is coming off a rare loss last week, when both the Dow and the Standard & Poor's 500 index had their first losing weeks in a month. Investors worried that the Federal Reserve might slow its extraordinary economic stimulus measures, which have also supported the stock market's advance.

Part of the reason for the increase in bond yields is anticipation that the Fed may ease back on its $85 billion a month in bond purchases. Tim Courtney, chief investment officer at Exencial Wealth Advisors, is among those who see a bleak outlook for the bond market. Rising inflation will eventually lead to higher interest rates, Courtney said, and losses for bond investors.

"The only way that bonds can make money from here is if we go a prolonged period of time with very, very low inflation and rates just don't move up a whole lot at all," said Courtney. "Under any other scenario they lose."

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller survey, which was released before stock trading opened, found that U.S. home prices rose 10.9 percent in March, the most since April 2006. A growing number of buyers are bidding on a tight supply of homes. Beazer Homes jumped 63 cents, or 3 percent, to $21.96.

Stocks extended their gains in the morning after the Conference Board reported at 10 a.m. that its measure of consumer confidence rose in May to its highest level since February 2008.

The Dow was up as much as 218 in the early going, then gave up some of its gain in the afternoon. Some analysts judged that investors were keen to book gains as the end of the month approached.

"It's the end of the month," said Quincy Krosby, a market strategist at Prudential Financial. "If you've been long and you'd done very well you want to lock in those gains."

The Dow was up 119 points, or 0.7 percent, to 15,413 as of 3:49 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

If the Dow finishes the day higher it will end have closed higher for 20 straight Tuesdays. That's the longest streak of gains for any individual day of the week is 24 for Wednesday set in 1968, according to Schaeffer's Investment Research.

The S&P 500 index rose nine points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,658. The Nasdaq composite index climbed 26 points, or 0.8 percent, to 3,485.

The gains were broad. Seven of the 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 index rose, led by financial stocks. The only ones that fell were utilities, telecommunication stocks and consumer staples, which investors tend to buy when they're seeking stable, safe stocks that pay high dividends. All but three of the 30 stocks in the Dow Jones industrial average rose.

The Dow has advanced 17.8 percent this year and the S&P 500 index in 16.5 percent higher as investors have piled into stocks.

Unlike the first three months of the year, when the biggest gains were in large, stable companies like consumer staple makers that pay big dividends, in recent weeks investors have been bidding up the stocks of companies that have more to gain if the economy strengths. That shift out of lower-risk stocks and into more "cyclical" stocks, like banks and industrial companies, means investors are becoming more aggressive in seeking returns and more comfortable taking on risk.

Another bullish signal for the market is the strong growth in small-company stocks. Those stocks have a greater potential for growth but also tend to carry greater risk than large, diversified companies. The preference for small stocks was on display again Tuesday as the Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks rose 1 percent, more than other market indexes, to 994 points, a gain of 10 points. Its year-to-date increase of 17.1 percent is about 0.8 percentage point greater than that of the S&P 500.

Among other stocks making big moves:

-Tiffany rose $3.37, or 4.4 percent, to $79.57 after the high-end jewelry seller said its first quarter net income rose 3 percent as sales improved across all regions. The results beat the forecasts of Wall Street analysts.

-Tesla Motors jumped $7.49, or 7.6 percent, to $104.60. Last week the electric car market raised almost $1 billion from a bond and stock offering and paid off a government loan nine years early. The company is also set to announce this week that it's adding to a network of car charging stations.

- Railway operator CSX fell 21 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $25.27 after one of its freight trains derailed in a Baltimore suburb.

-Electricity company FirstEnergy dropped 7.8 percent, or $2.83, to $39.78 after Credit Suisse stripped the company of its 'outperform' rating, saying that a glut of energy would push down prices the company is able to charge.

Traders were encouraged by gains in overseas markets. Japan's benchmark Nikkei rose 1.2 percent. The index had plunged 7.3 percent Thursday on concerns about Japan's massive economic stimulus program. European markets also rose. Britain's FTSE 100 jumped 1.6 percent and Germany's DAX gained climbed 1.2 percent.

In commodities trading, the price of oil rose 86 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $95.01. Gold fell $7.70, or 0.6 percent, to $1,378.90 an ounce. The dollar gained against the euro and the Japanese yen.