Stock markets in the United States extended gains today, driven by positive housing data which increased investors’ confidence on the country’s economy. The statement of Russian President Vladimir Putin that he does not intend to split Ukraine also eases worries regarding the ongoing situation between the two countries.

market news Morning News

The Department of Commerce reported that the housing industry is becoming stable after severe weather conditions negatively affected construction. Data showed that the number of building permits issued to privately-owned housing units in February increased from 945,000 units or 6.9% last month to 1,018,000 units or a 7.7% seasonally adjusted annual rate. Building permits for single-family homes dropped 1.8% from 599,000 units to 588,000 units in February.

In terms of housing completions, the annual rate for privately-owned housing was 886,000 units, 4.4% above the revised January estimate of 849,000 units and 21.9% higher than the 727,000 the annual rate in February 2013. The single-family housing completions last month were 631,000 units, 4% higher than the revised January rate of 607,000 units.

A separate report indicated that inflation is still below the goal of the Federal Reserve. Cam Albright, director of asset allocation at Wilmington Trust Investment, told Bloomberg that the economic date was “little changed but at least it wasn’t a lot worse.” He added, “People have been looking at a lot of negatively influenced numbers and thinking we may starting [sic] to get a little past that.”

On the other hand, John Augustine, chief market strategist at Fifth Third Bancorp, commented that Russia’s message was “more congenial” and that economic reports in the United States are better. He said, “The building permits report was very bullish for the spring and summer housing season. Today, we move back to better economic reports and focusing on the Fed.”

U.S. Markets

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA)- 16,336.19 (+0.55%)
  • S&P 500- 1,872.25 (+0.92 %)
  • NASDAQ- 4,333.31 (+1.25%)
  • Russell 2000- 1,205.02 (+1.41%)

European Markets

  • EURO STOXX 50 Price EUR- 3,073.74 (+0.81%)
  • FTSE 100 Index- 6,605.28 (+0.56%)
  • Deutsche Borse AG German Stock Index DAX- 9,242.55 (+0.67%)

Asia Pacific Markets

  • Nikkei 225- 14,411.27 (+0.94%)
  • Hong Kong Hang Seng Index- 21,583.50 (+0.51%)
  • Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 Index- 2,138.13 (-0.23%)

Stocks in Focus

The stock price of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) surged nearly 4% to $39.55 per share over reports the software giant is planning to release a version of its Office for the iPad of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) by the end of this month.  The shares of the company rose the most today since 2000.

Shares of Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) gained 3.66% to $30.56 per share after Barclays PLC (NYSE:BCS) (LON:BARC) upgraded its rating for the stock from Equal Weight to Overweight, saying that the company will benefit from Lenovo Group Limited (OTCMKTS:LNVGY) (HKG:0992)’s acquisition of the low-end server business of International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM).

GameStop Corp. (NYSE:GME) declined 3.42% to $38.39 per share after retail giant  Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) announced its plan to start selling pre-owned video games later this year. The announcement could cut the used game revenue of the video games retailer. During the holiday shopping season last year, GameStop reported that its sales of used games increased 7%.