Stock markets in the United States gained as data from the Department of Commerce showed that home construction in the country last month increased to its highest level since November, offsetting a decline in consumer confidence. According to the agency, privately owned housing units authorized by building permits increased by 1.08 million units at a seasonally adjusted rate in April, an 8% increase from the revised rate of 1 million units in March and 3.8% higher than the same period a year ago. Data showed that housing starts last month rose 13.2% to 1.07 million units from 947,000 units in March or 26% above the 848,000 units in April last year. Housing completions rose 3.9% to 847,000 units last month.

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A separate report from the Thomson Reuters / University of Michigan index of consumer confidence showed a decline to 81.8%.

Yesterday Federal Reserve Chairperson Janet Yellen said small business will play a critical for the U.S. economy to achieve a full recovery and stability. Yellen said that jobs creation is “crucial in this process” and small companies “are responsible for a large scale.”

Kevin Caron, a market strategist at Stifel Nicolaus & Co., told Bloomberg, “You came into the year with high hopes for growth in the economy, and data since the beginning of the year has been quite mixed. The real question is, what’s the next catalyst that drives us from here? The market’s had trouble finding it.”

U.S. Markets

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA)- 16,492.86 (+0.28%)
  • S&P 500- 1,877.90 (+0.38 %)
  • NASDAQ- 4,090.59 (+0.52%)
  • Russell 2000- 1,099.77 (+0.34%)

European Markets

  • EURO STOXX 50 Price EUR- 3,172.72 (+0.30%)
  • FTSE 100 Index- 6,855.81 (+0.22%)
  • Deutsche Borse AG German Stock Index DAX- 9,629.10 (-0.28%)

Asia-Pacific Markets

  • Nikkei 225- 14, 096.59 (-1.41%)
  • Hong Kong Hang Seng Index- 22,712.91 (-0.08%)
  • Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 Index- 2,145.95 (+1.09%)

Stocks in Focus

The stock price of Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK) fell 4.66% to $27.64 per share after the second largest natural gas producer in the United States announced that it will spin off its oilfield services business after completing its review of strategic alternatives.

Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE:DRI) declined 4.31% to $48.49 per share after the restaurant chain operator announced its decision to sell Red Lobster to private equity firm Golden Gate Capital for $2.1 billion.

Shares of Nordstrom, Inc. (NYSE:JWN) rose more than 14% to $70.55 per share after the company reported better-than-expected earnings for the first quarter. The retailer said it earned 73 cents per share, higher than the consensus estimate of 68 cents per share.