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The markets seesawed between positive and negative territory Monday as traders mulled a round of disappointing housing data and mixed corporate earnings.
As of 1:00 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 14.7 points, or 0.1%, to 14532, the S&P 500 rose 2.6 points, or 0.17%, to 1557 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 17 points, or 0.53%, to 3223.
The markets took their biggest fall of the year last week, with the broad S&P 500 shedding 2.1%. The sentiment remained cautious on Monday.
Sales of existing, U.S. homes dropped 0.6% in March from February to a 4.92-million unit annualized rate, less than the estimates of a 5.01-million unit rate, according to the National Association of Realtors. The housing market has been showing signs of improvement in recent months, but the the recovery has been a choppy one.
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Still, not all news was negative. Over the weekend, Italy re-elected Giorgio Napolitano as president after parliament there failed to choose a head of state five times. The move sent Italy's benchmark stock-market index, the FTSE MIB, surging some 2%. Analysts generally saw the election as a positive, although still noted the downside risks Europe's third-biggest economy faces.
"The start of [Napolitano's] unprecedented second-term is being met with mixed feelings, with markets appearing satisfied by the resolution and the implied stability of Mr. Napolitano’s steady hands on the reins," analysts at Nomura wrote to clients Monday.
Separately, the Group of 20 finance and central bank chiefs that met at the end of last week came out supportive of Japan's aggressive new monetary policy measures that have shoved the yen sharply lower and sent markets there skyrocketing. The G-20 also came out in support of fiscal measures taken recently in the U.S. via the sequester.
Earnings season also revs up this week.
Caterpillar (CAT) posted first-quarter profits of $1.31 a share, shy of estimates of $1.40. The heavy-machinery giant said its revenues came in at $13.21 billion for the quarter, also missing expectations of $13.7 billion. The company also said it expects its full-year profits to come in at $7 a share, down from a previous forecast of $7 to $9 a share. Shares rose despite the miss.
In commodities, gold prices rallied $39.60, or 2.7%, to $1,435 a troy ounce. Oil edged up 48 cents, or 0.55%, to $88.49 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline advanced 0.82% to $2.795 a gallon.
The Euro Stoxx 50 jumped 0.92% to 2599, the English FTSE 100 gained 0.63% to 6326 and the German DAX advanced 0.88% to 7525.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rallied 1.9% to 13568 and the Chinese Hang Seng ticked up 0.14% to 22044.