Blue Chips Swing Higher
FOX Business: The Power to Prosper
The Dow staged a late-day comeback as traders shrugged off soaring oil prices, tumult in the Middle East, North Africa and Japan and a disappointing report on new home sales.
As of 3:38 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was higher by 67.9 points, or 0.56%, to 12086, the S&P 500 was up 3.7 points, or 0.28%, to 1297 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 13.9 points, or 0.52%, to 2697. The FOX 50 edged higher by 1.8 points to 912.
"You’ve got to be impressed with market’s resilience here," said Marc Pado, market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald.
Metals and mining companies, like Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM) and Alcoa (NYSE:AA), led the markets higher. Financial companies such as Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) didn't fare as well, stumbling on the day.
Volume at the New York Stock Exchange was "anemic," according to Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Capital Group, leading some analysts to question the strength of the late-day rally.
A coalition of countries including the U.S. and France continued bombing Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi's forces, upholding a U.N. security council resolution to stop violence against citizens in the North African nation.
The volatile situation in Yemen also escalated after groups opposing the government rejected President Ali Abdullah Saleh's offer to step down by the end of the year. Days earlier, government-backed security forces cracked down on anti-government protests, killing and injuring as many as 40 people, according to reports.
Saleh warned the country that attempts to force him out sooner would result in "a civil war, a bloody war."
The increased risk of political turmoil causing supply disruptions in oil-producing countries like Libya and Yemen, and potentially spreading to bigger oil producers such as Saudi Arabia, caused oil prices to spike 24% since February.
Light, sweet crude was up 78 cents, or 0.74%, to $105.75 -- the highest settlement price since September 2008.
Crude inventories jumped 2.13 million to 252.8 million barrels in the prior week, far exceeding analysts' calls for a build of 1.6 million, according to the Energy Department. Prices were largely unaffected by the bearish report.
Energy prices on the consumer level have been heading higher as well. A gallon of regular gas costs $3.55 on average nationwide, up from $3.17 last month and $2.82 last year, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.
High gas prices are "going to take away discretionary spending from consumers," Pado said.
Also on the economic front, new homes sales sunk 16.9% to a record-low seasonally adjusted rate of 250,000 in February. Economists were expecting sales to edge up to 290,000.
"Overall, today's release, alongside Monday's softer-than-expected existing home sales report, suggests a very weak start to the year for housing demand," wrote Theresa Chen, an economist with Barclays Capital, in a research note.
The price of new homes also dipped to the lowest level since December 2003, according to the Commerce Department.
The situation at Japan's troubled nuclear reactors, while more stable than last week, was still serious. The Japanese government reported that low levels of radiation had seeped into water, and some food, prompting the U.S. government to ban imports from parts of Northern Japan near the plant.
Additionally, several companies were still evaluating the implications the devastating earthquake and tsunami would have on their supply chains.
Indeed, major companies like Sony (NYSE:SNE), Toyota (NYSE:TM) and Honda (NYSE:HMC) announced Tuesday that they would need to extend plant closures amid issues with infrastructure and electricity in the country.
The Japanese government estimates the economic costs of the earthquake could be as high as $308 billion, more than double the cost of the Kobe earthquake in 1995.
In the foreign exchange market, the euro dropped 0.51% against the U.S. dollar and the greenback jumped 0.38% against a basket of world currencies. Concerns about sovereign debt in the Eurozone, particularly in Portugal, put pressure on the euro.
In metals, gold jumped $10.40, or 0.73%, to $1437.
Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) was told by the Federal Reserve to re-evaluate its plans to boost its dividend by the end of 2011.
General Mills (NYSE:GIS) unveiled an 18% gain in third-quarter profits on robust international growth. However, shares of the maker of Cheerios and Progresso soup were under pressure after it said commodity prices could drive the price of food higher.
AOL (NYSE:AOL) was upgraded from "neutral" to "buy" by analysts at UBS, as the company has strengthened its premium content and high-quality advertising position.
Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein is expected to testify in the Raj Rajaratnam insider-trading trial.
Sirius XM Radio (NYSE:SIRI) is being sued by Howard Stern on allegations the satellite radio provider failed to pay promised stock awards. The lawsuit prompted Wunderlich Securities to cut its price target from $2.00 to $1.65 a share.
Global shares drifted between positive and negative territory.
In Europe, the English FTSE 100 was higher by 0.58% to 5795, the French CAC 40 was up 0.54% to 3913 and the German DAX climbed 0.35% to 6804.
Asian stocks were lower, the Japanese Nikkei dipped 1.7% to 9449 and the Chinese Hang Seng was down 0.14% to 22825.