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Stocks Rise After Mixed Economic Reports

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 1:42pm
Daniel Wagner, AP Business Writer

A strong report on consumer confidence pushed stocks modestly higher Tuesday, overshadowing weak reports on factory orders and home prices.

Consumer confidence jumped in February to the highest level since a year ago. Improved perceptions of the job market pushed the index higher, but the number is still below the level that indicates a healthy economy.

The report, issued at 10 a.m., pushed the Dow Jones industrial average above 13,000, a marker it has broken through repeatedly in the past week during the trading day. The Dow still hasn't closed above that level since May 2008.

The Dow rose 23 points, or 0.2 percent, to 13,004 in the first 45 minutes of trading. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 3, or 0.3 percent, to 1,371. The Nasdaq composite index rose 14, or 0.5 percent, to 2,980.

Earlier economic reports were weaker, pushing stock futures lower and leading to a mixed open.

Orders for long-lasting manufactured goods plunged last month by 4 percent, the most in three years, the Commerce Department said. Economists expected a 1 percent drop.

Much of the decline came from a pullback in business spending on machinery and equipment in January. Spending surged in that category late last year, before a key tax break expired. It fell last month by the most in a year.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Schiller index of home prices fell in December for a fourth straight month in most major U.S. cities.

Major European indexes edged lower after rising for most of the day. A dip in oil prices had helped relieve some jitters that high energy costs could strangle the nascent recovery.

Crude oil was down a quarter-percent at $108 a barrel. Oil had spiked in recent weeks over concerns about a nuclear showdown with Iran. A report on weaker demand in Asia helped reverse oil's rise.

Among stocks making big moves:

— Homebuilder Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. jumped 2.5 percent after saying its first-quarter contracts climbed 27 percent and February's numbers remained strong.

— Auto parts retailer AutoZone Inc. gained 2.6 percent after saying its profits increased 13 percent in the most recent quarter.

— Domino's Pizza Inc. surged 11.2 percent after its fourth-quarter profit spiked 28 percent.

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